Sawmark Analysis of Three Cases of Amputation and a Craniotomy from the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries Hospital Necropolis of Forlì Campus (Forlì, Italy)

Lucia Martina Scalise, Antonino Vazzana, Mirko Traversari, Giorgio Gruppioni, Carla Figus, Eugenio Bortolini, Salvatore Andrea Apicella, Flavia Fiorillo, Federico Taverni, Stefano De Carolis, Flora Fiorini, Thomas Böni, Frank J Rühli, Stefano Benazzi, Francesco Maria Galassi


The seventeenth-eighteenth century hospital necropolis of Forlì Campus (Forlì, Italy) was discovered during the Forlì Campus building work in 2014. Three cases of limb amputation and a craniotomy are examined using the forensic approach of sawmark analysis in order to understand features of the surgical instruments employed and to gain insight into the position of the surgeon during the cutting actions. With the aid of high definition photographs and moulds, we analyzed the cut surfaces of each sample, also using stereomicroscopy and SEM (Scanning Electron Microscopy). A qualitative and quantitative approach was used in the analysis of the kerf features (e.g. breakaway spur and notch, tooth scratches and hop, exit chipping), and empirical evidence was compared against comparisons coeval surgical essays. We hypothesize that a linear hand-powered push saw and an alternated push saw with a 2mm distance between the teeth were used for amputations. The craniotomy was executed presumably using a linear hand-powered saw with the set of the blade circa 1.3mm wide.

Through the application of forensic methods on individuals from archaeological context we describe early cases of surgical practice in a more technical way.


Hospital necropolis; Amputation; Craniotomy; Sawmark analysis; Microscopy; Surgical instruments features

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