Evaluation of the efficacy of spatiotemporal Pb isoscapes for provenancing of human remains

Austin T. Keller, Laura A. Regan, Craig C. Lundstrom, Nathan W. Bower

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Geospatially distributed isotopes (isoscapes) from biogeochemically fractionated processes have been applied in many forensic investigations, such as authentication of food and sourcing of drugs. Provenancing of human remains using isotopes has been hindered by a lack of appropriate isoscapes, by changes in these isoscapes over time, and by various homogenization processes. In this study we create spatiotemporal isoscapes for anthropogenic lead (Pb) for the contiguous United States and Europe using literature data from dated sediments, soils and biological tissues. We compare 206Pb/207Pb isoscapes with isoscapes of δ13C, δ18O and 87Sr/86Sr to determine their relative efficacy for the forensic identification of human remains. We do this comparison using third molar enamel data from 22 United States Air Force Academy cadets with known life trajectories born between 1983 and 1985. We use these spatiotemporal isoscapes with osteologic analyses, hospital records and isotopic analyses of tooth enamel carbonate from permanent teeth to help identify 32 individuals from unmarked graves found in a forgotten 19th century mental asylum cemetery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-92
Number of pages10
JournalForensic Science International
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016


  • Anthropology
  • Forensic science
  • Isoscape
  • Pb/Pb
  • Radiogenic
  • Stable isotope

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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