Analysis of skeletal trauma on the bodies found in a mass grave

Ditor Haliti (Lead / Corresponding author), Diana Swales, Alan Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This study was based on the data from the casefiles of the Institute of Forensic Medicine (IFM) in Kosovo, to analyse and interpret trauma observed on individuals recovered from a mass grave in Rudnica, Serbia. The intention was to determine if there is a pattern of trauma characteristic of this mass grave that informs about the manner of death and whether this is consistent with witness testimonies. The study considers the limitations of such analysis and interpretation, with special consideration of the completeness of the remains. The casefiles of 54 individuals recovered from the Rudnica mass grave from April to June 2014 were examined. A descriptive analysis was undertaken of the demographic profile of the sample, primary site of burial, completeness of the bodies, type and distribution of trauma, and the documented cause of death. All the individuals identified from the Rudnica mass grave were male aged from 14 to 96 years at time of death originating from four separate primary events with two known primary burial sites. Overall, 56% of the bodies were almost complete, 35% incomplete, and 9% complete. Discussion of the determination of completeness is included herein. The only type of trauma documented on the remains was gunshot wound trauma with the distribution of injuries concentrated on the trunk, followed by the limbs and head/neck regions. The cause of death was established in 56% of the cases. A pattern of trauma on the skeletal remains from the Rudnica mass grave was established based on the distribution and type of trauma documented from the dataset of each individual. These findings can be used as a basis for future studies in this field of research by taking a similar approach on larger samples and addressing the limitations encountered here.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-167
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Legal Medicine
Early online date26 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • Trauma analysis
  • Mass grave
  • Kosovo
  • Pattern of trauma
  • Gunshot wounds
  • Skeletal remains


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