If you look at the photo above it illustrates a post-mortem fracture. You can determine this easily due to the colour difference on the edge of the fracture where it is a much lighter colour compared to the rest of the skull and the crumbly nature of the cut.
There is a relatively easy way to see whether a fracture to a skeleton is ante, peri or even post mortem. It is essential to detail and deduce which category a fracture falls into, as this is very important to see whether the fracture had played a part in the person’s death.
To first classify a fracture we need to understand what the different categories mean, some of you will already know these terminology but here’s a quick reminder:
- If a fracture is ante-mortem, it means that the fracture was made before death of the persons.
- With peri-mortem fractures, it means that the fracture was received at or near the time of death of the persons – so could have been the fatal strike.
- Post-mortem fractures are fractures that have been received after death, so during the time from death to the time of recovery. These fractures are usually from excavation processes, dismemberment, or even natural processes (soil, animal and plant activity).
You will be able to determine if a bone fracture was ante-mortem due to there being signs of healing which is shown by cell regrowth and repair. With peri-mortem fractures the person died before the healing started to take place, but the fractures will still contain the biomechanics that are present in ante-mortem fractures (Smith, 2010). Post-mortem breaks tend to shatter compared to peri-mortem breaks which splinter, this is because bones which are in the post-mortem stage tend to be dry and rather brittle (Smith, 2010). Another big indicator of a fracture being post-mortem is the difference in colour.