Fatal falls and broken bones: an anthropological analysis of skeletal trauma using post-mortem computed tomography

Date & time: 1.30am 23 April 2016, AEST (Australian Eastern Standard Time)
Location: Humanities Research Centre Conference Room, AD Hope Building
Speakers: Ms Samantha Rowbotham

Falls are the second leading cause of unintentional injury and death globally. They are a form of vertical deceleration where each type of fall is a unique and complex event that produces an inimitable form of skeletal blunt force trauma (BFT). Understanding these skeletal traumas is of particular interest to forensic anthropologists when interpreting the mechanism of BFT as a fall, and understanding the circumstances surrounding the fall event. Research into the skeletal BFT resulting from falls has not been prominent in forensic anthropology however, and subsequently, the skeletal fracture patterns and morphologies associated with the various types of falls are poorly understood. To augment this deficit, ongoing doctoral research is investigating the skeletal fractures associated with three common types of fatal falls. Analysis is undertaken using post-mortem computed tomography applications (part of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine’s routine autopsy process), and contextualised to the National Coronial Information System documentation (pathology, toxicology, police and coronial reports). Questions regarding the types of fracture distributions and individual fracture morphologies are currently being investigated. This research will provide improved evaluations of skeletal fractures and augment the interpretation of circumstances of fatal falls in medico-legal contexts.

Samantha is a doctoral researcher at Monash University, and holds a BA in Archaeology (Queensland) and MRes in Archaeological Science (ANU). She has 7 years of excavation, teaching and research experience in osteology and bioarchaeology from across Australia, Asia, Europe and Central America.


Dr Justyna Miszkiewicz

Email: Justyna.Miszkiewicz@anu.edu.au