Fisher, Russell S. How the Pathologist Can Aid the Arson Investigator.
Fire and Arson Investigator. March, 1985. pp. 19-24.
Abstract: This article explains how anthropologic techniques can
assist fire investigators with identifying bodies destroyed by the fire.
The sex, age, and height of the victim can all be determined by examination
of the remains. A pathologist can also assist the medical examiner determine
the cause of death.
The investigator should look for remnants of clothing that may reveal
the sex of the victim. If none survived the fire, recognizable sex organs
can usually be identified. If the body is severely damaged, the bone structure
can be analyzed to determine the sex. Male bones are heavier than female
bones and arranged slightly differently. There are also noticeable differences
in the skulls of males and females.
Scientists can frequently determine the age of a burned body with the
accuracy of plus or minus five years. Hardening of the arteries occurs with
age and helps narrow the possibilities. In male victims, the size of the
prostate gland can determine if the body is over fifty or not. There are
definitive skeletal signs for those under 25 and those between the ages
of 22 and 35. Examination of the jaw and teeth also reveals important age
Scientists have developed a formula for determining the height of a victim.
If the length of the femur bone is known, scientists or investigators can
figure out the height of the victim with one-inch accuracy. The article
fully explains the techniques scientists employ to determine the characteristics
of severely burned victims.
For more information, contact:
International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI)
300 Broadway Suite 100
St. Louis, MO 63102-2808