A forensic approach to the analysis of sharp force trauma on an archaeological cranium: potentials and pitfalls

Emanuela Sguazza, Debora Mazzarelli, Daniele Gibelli, Agostino Rizzi, Cristina Cattaneo


Finding signs of bone trauma in a forensic case necessarily leads to questions concerning the reconstruction of the number and sequence of lesions and the type of weapon, which are usually faced in forensic analyses. However the same questions arise in archaeological cases, although the application of forensic techniques and reasoning may be less common. The authors present the case of a young adult male (25-29 years old), found in a grave in the archaeological area of Rossilli (Gavignano, Rome), dating back between the late Roman age and 18th century, affected by five perimortem sharp wounds on the cranial vault. The application of forensic techniques, together with microscopic analysis by SEM-EDS allowed the authors to shed some light on the manner and modality of infliction of such lesions. At the same time, this case underlines the limit of forensic procedures, especially for what concerns the archaeological context, and suggests caution in applying modern trauma analysis to the study of ancient human remains.


perimortem injuries; sharp force trauma; cranial lesions; SEM-EDS; forensic anthropology; archaeology

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