The determination of the post-mortem interval (PMI) of skeletal remains is a challenging aspect in the forensic field. Previous studies focused their attention on different macroscopic and morphological aspects but a thorough and complete evaluation of the potential of chemical and physical analyses in this field of research has not been performed. In addition to luminol test and Oxford histology index (OHI) reported in a recent paper, widely spread and accessible methods based on physical aspect and chemical characteristics of skeletal remains have been investigated as potential alternatives to dating by determination of 14C. The investigation was performed on a total of 24 archeological and forensic bone samples with known PMI, with inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometer (ICP-OES), inductively coupled plasma quadruple mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy, energy dispersive X-ray analysis (EDX), powder X-ray diffraction analysis (XRPD) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Finally, the feasibility of such alternative methods was discussed. Some results such as carbonates/phosphates ratio from FT-IR, the amounts of organic and inorganic matter by EDX, crystallite sizes with XRPD, and surface morphology obtained by SEM, showed significant trends along with PMI. Though, from a chemical point of view cut-off values and gold-standard methods still present challenges, and rather different techniques together can provide useful information toward the assessment of the PMI of skeletal remains. It is however clear that in a hypothetical flowchart those methods may be placed practically at the same level and a choice should always consider the evaluation of results by each technique, execution times and a costs/benefits relationship.
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