Institute of Archaeology


Katrina Gafner

Katrina Gafner

Understanding the Thermal Alteration of Cranial Blunt Force Trauma Fractures


Email: katrina.gafner.14@ucl.ac.uk
Section: Archaeological Sciences



Understanding the Thermal Alteration of Cranial Blunt Force Trauma Fractures

Within the framework of taphonomic theory, thermal alteration is one of the most destructive processes acting on skeletal remains. The effects of thermal alteration include phenomena such as shrinkage, warping, colour change and heat-induced fractures. Within this complex context, approaches to one key aspect of analysis, human-induced perimortem trauma, have yet to be fully explored. Using animal analogues, past experimental research has focused on whether traces of sharp force, blunt force, and ballistic trauma survive thermal alteration and can be distinguished from heat-induced fractures. At this time, only a select few studies have asked whether thermally altered BFT fractures retain their original morphological characteristics, such as general size and overall dimensional relationships (Collini et al. 2015; Poppa et al. 2011). To further this underdeveloped line of enquiry, this research utilizes a quantitative, experimental approach to analyse cranial depression fractures before and after thermal alteration. By manipulating both time and temperature and subjecting results to multivariate statistics, research questions focus on whether predictive patterns can be deduced in an effort to either validate or improve standards of trauma analysis within bioarchaeology and forensic anthropology.


    • BA, Anthropology and Classical Civilizations, Colby College, 2016
    • MSc, Bioarchaeology and Forensic Anthropology, UCL, 2017
    Conference papers

    Institute of Archaeology SAMS Conference 2017 - "Up In Flames: Thermal Modification and Blunt Force Trauma Lesions"