Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Jonathan Bethard, Ph.D., D-ABFA

Committee Member

Elizabeth Miller, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Matthieu Baudelet, Ph.D.


commingling, human skeletal analysis, osteology


Within bioarchaeology and forensic anthropology, the current processes of differentiating between individual human skeletal remains are imprecise, costly, and inefficient. A novel analytical technique within anthropology, laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) can aid in the identification of human remains using rapid laser ablation occurring at the micro-scale, making the technique virtually non-destructive to the sample. Considering this, LIBS could offer a superior method for materials discrimination and human identification. This research sought to examine whether LIBS can be used to obtain elemental signatures within bones to distinguish individuals from one another in a rapid, non-destructive manner. Seven human skeletal donors and two archaeological samples were analyzed with LIBS in order to test whether individuals could be distinguished from one another using elemental signatures within bones. Results showed that LIBS spectral data can be used to correctly classify individuals and archaeological samples, as well as provide information about burial environment and disposition. The application of LIBS within the fields of bioarchaeology and forensic anthropology opens new doors for rapid, non-destructive skeletal analysis, allowing anthropologists to shed new light on human variation at an elemental level.