This post reprises a thread from the CODOH forum that got lost during the .info to .com switch.
The topic is cremation remains at the Reinhardt camps. That is, assuming the orthodox Reinhardt story is true, what should we expect to find at the camps in terms of human remains. The question is not whether and how the alleged cremation would have been possible, but what we would find if it did happen, and how we should interpret the physical evidence that has been found.
An established revisionist argument
The article The Treblinka Holocaust in the anthology Dissecting the Holocaust made the following argument:
And finally, we must note that the teeth of the supposed victims could not have been destroyed by the primitive methods attested to. Even if each of the alleged victims had only 20 of the usual 32 teeth left at the time he or she died, there would have been at least 17.5 million teeth to be disposed of at Treblinka. This means that we should still be able to find some 5 teeth per cubic foot of the 3.53 million cu.ft. of material excavated at the alleged site of the crime.
The reference given is the book The File on the Tsar, which can be downloaded here. The relevant material is in chapter 13. It’s well worth reading, and strongly supports the revisionist position. Of particular interest is the absolute readiness of forensic experts to dismiss confessions or other witness statements on technical grounds – just like holocaust revisionists do.
The arguments of anti-revisionists
HDOT has a myth/fact sheet on this subject:
Their principle reference is the following study:
This will be addressed later; suffice it to say that the interpretation made by HDOT is not accurate.
Roberto Muehlenkamp contributes this polemic against Greg Gerdes:
So the idea that Gerdes is trying to force-feed the suckers he expects his readers to be is that it would be a piece of cake to find one pound of human cremation remains among an amount of soil and wood ash 18 times higher, and to separate the human cremation remains from much higher amounts of soil and wood ash and to accurately quantify the human cremation remains.
This, of course, is bullshit of such magnitude that it takes a “Revisionist” true believer to swallow it. But then, “Revisionist” true believers are the audience that Gerdes is playing to here.
This is a truly astonishing argument. It suggests, for instance, that mining is impossible except in nearly pure deposits. Perhaps Muehlenkamp would like to offer me a cubic meter consisting of gold mixed with an amount of soil 18 times higher. After all, there couldn’t be a way to separate one material from another when there’s 18 times more of the latter material, so gold mixed with soil like that is absolutely worthless, right?
Did Muehlenkamp skip school the day his science class did the usual “separating mixtures” experiment?
Muehlenkamp continues, offering the following challenge:
1. Demonstrate that, despite the fragility resulting from cremation at high temperatures, most of the victims’ teeth must still be lying intact in the soil of Belzec, Sobibor or Treblinka;
2. Provide a calculation as to what volume the number of teeth he can demonstrate to have probably survived must occupy inside the mass graves of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka.
3. Demonstrate that it should be easy to find teeth when excavating the mass graves of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka. That might well the hardest part of Gerdes’ exercise. Let’s say a tooth has a volume of 1 cubic centimeter or 0.000001 cubic meters. Even the 36 million teeth that Gerdes babbles about would then have a total volume of, go figure, just 36 cubic meters. Given a minimum mass grave volume of 88,700 cubic meters, see above, even 36 million teeth would occupy just 0.04 % of volume of the mass graves, the rest being other human remains (about 5.21 % of the total volume) and wood ash and soil (about 94.75 % of the volume).
This means that every surviving tooth inside the mass graves of Belzec, Sobibor or Treblinka would be surrounded by:
a) a volume 128 times higher of other human remains, and
b) a volume 2,335 times higher of wood ash and soil, and
c) a volume 2,463 times higher of matter other than tooth.
The remainder of the material contained in this post will allow us to address the arguments made by both HDOT and Muehlenkamp, and go considerably beyond them.
Is it Possible to Consume a Body Completely in a Fire?
In a 1984 article, the well known forensic scientist Bill Bass stated the following:
Forensic anthropologists are often asked, “Is it possible to consume a body completely in a house or building fire?” The answer is no. Even though no soft tissue may remain, there are always pieces of the skeleton, and if a careful search is made by well-trained osteologists, fragments of bones can be recovered and subsequently identified.
Even when bodies are commercially cremated, the skeletal fragments can be identified if they are not ground too finely. Most people do not realize that a cremated adult human body produces approximately a half bushel or more of fragments and ashes. Usually only a small portion of the ashes is returned to the family in an urn while the major portion of the bony remains is ground and disposed of in various ways.
Here is a copy of Bass’ paper. Thanks to Kladderadatsch for sending it to me.
Bass Is it Possible to Consume a Body by Fire OCR
Aside: Bass provides this information about a case study:
J.G. had been shot and robbed. His truck and some of the materials purchased for the remodeling were sold. Two dogs were brought into the house to destroy the body. When that did not occur after a day, a decision was made to blow up the body and burn the house to cover up the murder.
The murderer was unfortunate not to have any Romanian dogs, as The Holocaust Encyclopedia tells us this about an incident during the Romanian holocaust:
Since the ground was frozen, [the Jews] could not even be buried, and the corpses were devoured by the camp dogs. (p. 636)
But wait a minute – how then did the Germans manage to bury so many people at so many different locations (north of where the Romanians were operating!) in the winter?
The Destruction of Bodies in Fires – Case Studies
Bass’ article contained a couple of case studies examining the destruction of a body in a fire. Some others (involving murderers who attempted to burn their victims) are contained in this thread on the CODOH forum:
1. A car fire
From The analysis of burned human remains:
Firefighters arrive at the scene of an abandoned car burning out of control on a desolate country road. A passerby has called 911 to report that the car had literally exploded before his eyes. Upon reaching the scene, the fire marshal is quick to suspect arson, based on the intensity and enormity of the fire. Inside of what will later be determined to be a rental vehicle are the charred remains of a victim
The fire was insufficient to destroy the skull:
The book The Analysis of Burned Human Remains is mandatory reading for anyone interested in the subject; you can download it here.
2. A fire in a camping van
First, a bit of terminology. In a indoor fire, flashover is the point where all surfaces of a room – walls, ceiling, and floor – start combusting. Flashover allows room fires to burn hotter than open air fires.
With regard to destruction of bones, one case study involved the recreation of a fire in a camping van that had caused considerable destruction to the body of an adult female trapped in the van (DeHaan, 2003). This fire was reported by a farmer who saw a vehicle fully involved in flames at a remote camping area. Due to its location, fire crews could not respond quickly and the fire was known to have burned for at least 25 min before it was suppressed. An adult male was found outside the vehicle who reported that he and his girlfriend were sleeping in the van when he awoke to find the interior heavily charged with hot smoke. He reportedly crawled to a rear window and broke it (by butting it with his head) to escape. He had smoke deposits, singed scalp hair, scalp and leg abrasions, and glass fragments in his hair to support his statement. His girlfriend was found seated on the rear (cargo) floor of the van with her back against the rear of the passenger seat and leaning against the (locked) right cargo door of the van. The right half of her body (torso and limbs) was rendered to calcined bones, exposing the spinal column and burned internal organs. Her ribs, shoulder, arm, and leg bones were denuded of all connective tissue and calcined. The right side of the skull was calcined, delaminated and heat-fractured. Postmortem examination revealed a COHb saturation of 41% with no significant drugs or alcohol or evidence of physical trauma. Scene investigators opined that the fire was so intense to destroy so much of the body and do so much damage to the van that it had to have been deliberately ignited with flammable liquid. Tests for ignitable liquids in the carpet found under the victim were negative. The van had been parked since the previous afternoon, was not running at the time, the fuel system was intact, and there were no signs of a grass fire extending under the van from outside. A visitor from the previous evening had said that they had no campfire, were not cooking and not using the propane Coleman lamp stored in the van.
Fortunately, the interior of the van had been photographed by the responding fire chief immediately after the fire in the van was knocked down, before overhaul disturbed the extensive fuel load in the van or the body. The victims planned to ‘run away’ from their domestic problems, and the van was heavily packed with bags, crates, and boxes of clothing, blankets, food, tools, and camping supplies. It had fiberboard paneling on the sides and the roof, carpet on the floor, and normal seats at the front. The van was a Tradesman Camper-style van with large windows all the way around. It was calculated that if these windows failed, a fire of some 3 MW could be supported inside the van. There was more than enough fuel with all the clothing and bedding present to sustain a very large fire within.
A similar test vehicle was obtained and loaded with an approximation of the fuel load identified in the original van (same type and arrangement of fuels but less total mass – meaning a similar size fire but for a shorter duration). Temperatures (measured by thermocouples located in the center of the cargo compartment) and smoke conditions were monitored inside the van as a fire was started by direct flame application to cardboard inside, and doors and windows were closed. The rear window was broken at 3 min and 45 s after the conditions inside had deteriorated to the point that the hot smoke layer temperature was over 100 C and there was heavy smoke making it untenable for the survivor to escape. The broken window simulated his reported escape and provided ventilation to support a growing fire. Temperatures climbed rapidly after the window was broken. The ceiling layer temperature exceeded 600 C (1150 F) at about 6 min, causing flashover inside the van and rapid shattering of all the remaining windows. All windows failed between 6 and 8 min, with each failure allowing a bigger fire to exist inside the van. Temperatures exceeded 1000 C (1830 F) inside the van at 8 min and peaked at nearly 1200 C (2200 F) during post-flashover burning. These temperatures and conditions exceeded those of a commercial crematorium and would have created similar damage to a body within. The reduced fuel load in the test van limited the test to less than 30 min (from ignition) at which point all combustibles within the van had been consumed (including the dashboard upholstery). The pattern of fire damage to the test van itself closely matched that observed on the van from the scene. The pattern of most intense damage to the victim’s body matched the area of most intense ventilation-driven fire in the center of the van. Based upon the creation of a ‘crematorium on wheels’ without the presence of any accelerant, the district attorney dropped the murder charges pending against the survivor.
The van could support a 3 MW fire after the windows failed; it burned for at least 25 minutes; in the experiment the windows failed between 6 and 8 minutes. To be conservative, let’s suppose that the fire burned at 3 MW for 15 minutes. That’s a release of 0.75 MWh = 750 kWh. If a kilogram of seasoned wood has an energy content of 5 kWh (*), that means this fire released the energy of 150 kg of wood. What’s more, it did so not on an open pyre, but in an enclosed space under post-flashover conditions which allowed a temperature higher than is possible in an open air fire. Yet the body was only very partially destroyed.
* An overly generous estimate; the real figure is a little over 4 kWh at best.
3. A car fire won’t destroy a body. A fire in a heavily loaded camping van won’t destroy a body. What about a house fire? Consider this example, from The analysis of burned human remains:
A house destroyed, a body not destroyed.
4. Of course, house fires can cause more destruction than this. What remains are left in that case?
First, two examples from The Analysis of Burned Human Remains
LAWRENCE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA
This assemblage, excavated in 1987, represents the remains of a 16-year-old girl who had gone missing in 1965. An informant told police that the body was burned in a home after her death and then sometime after the initial burning the assailant returned to the property and set the house ablaze. The landowner had subsequently bulldozed dirt and burned debris into the open foundation where the house had once stood. During the excavation, a backhoe was used to remove three to four feet of overburden. At approximately 1.5 feet above the basement floor, heavy excavation was replaced by trowel and shovel work. Bones were discovered in the center of the structure. Due to the poor condition of the skeletal material, the fill from this area was taken back to the laboratory in its entirety (Dennis Dirkmaat, 2002, personal communication). In all, the Lawrence County assemblage includes over 2300 bone fragments. None of the bones is complete, most are extensively warped and most are blue-gray to white in color. The large concentration of remains in one area suggests that they were not scattered or damaged during the bulldozing of the dwelling, although they may have been affected by compaction from the overlying debris during their 22-year interment.
The senior author examined the Lawrence County remains at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania, in September 2002. They had been sorted into plastic trays and bags. All of the larger, identifiable fragments were scored (n = 184). The remaining unidentified fragments had been divided into 10 plastic trays. Ten fragments were randomly sampled from seven of these trays (n = 70) using the same methods employed for the Fox Hollow assemblage. Two of the plastic trays were excluded because they did not contain even 10 fragments. Another tray was excluded because all of the fragments were fused to the pieces of melted plastic and glass. In all, 254 fragments were analyzed.
POTTER COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA
This assemblage, recovered in 1995, represents the remains of a gracile male, aged 20–50 years. The victim had died in a house fire that may have been started by a wood-burning stove (Dennis Dirkmaat, 2002, personal communication). Fragment colors range from black to blue-gray to white. Unlike the Lawrence County remains, this assemblage contains many large, diagnostic fragments, including portions of the right shoulder girdle and thoracic spine encased in dried soft tissues.
The senior author examined the Potter County remains at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania, in September 2002. The fragments had been sorted into plastic bags. As with the Lawrence County case, all of the larger, identifiable fragments were scored (n = 160). In addition, there were six bags containing unidentified fragments. Ten fragments were randomly chosen from each bag (n = 60). In all, 220 fragments were analyzed.
Now two examples from chapter 22 of Advances in Forensic Taphonomy. (download the book here)
This case involves a single individual whose remains were discovered after an intense fire in a two-story wood frame house located approximately 200 km east of Edmonton, Alberta. The house was situated in a remote rural setting serviced by a volunteer fire department. Passersby noticed the fire at 2:30 AM. The volunteer fire department was notified, and immediately responded. When the call was made, the fire was already well advanced, and after two water trucks emptied their payloads into the fire with no effect, there remained no option but to let it burn out (Dowling, 1989). It was several days before the site could be examined. All flammable components of the house had collapsed onto the bare earth basement floor, forming a debris layer averaging an estimated 30 cm in depth. Police suspected that a male in his 60s was in the house at the time of the fire, and as soon as conditions allowed, police officers and a fire investigator searched for remains. This initial search was unsuccessful; however, during a second search, police raked the basement area and located a number of bone fragments suspected of being human. Following these discoveries, a team from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (including a forensic anthropologist) attended and processed the scene. Analysis of the recovered cremated remains provided a positive identification of the missing male, who was the owner of the house. There had been a witnessed altercation between this man and two other individuals in the days before the fire. This information, along with the discovered human remains, provided a foundation for the search for evidence of foul play.
Six-hundred and thirty-three bone fragments were recovered of which 304 were identifiable as to exact anatomical location within the skeleton. Two bones were nonhuman. Fragments ranged in size from 0.2 cm x 0.2 cm up to 27.0 cm long (a femur fragment with attached charred tissue). In hindsight, it was determined that the 1/4″ screen was insufficient for recovery of materials of such a fragmentary nature, especially for tooth fragments.
For the male in Case 1, age estimation was straightforward. Although there were no pubic symphyses, rib ends suggested an age of 54 to 65+, and the auricular surface one of 60+. Other indicators including deep Pacchionian pits, parietal thinning, and osteoarthritic lipping of the knee, vertebrae, and shoulder as well as endocranial suture closure all supported the conclusion of an adult, probably 60+. The resident of the house was 67 years old.
In Case 1, the identification of a clavicle with a decades-old healed mid-body fracture was easily correlated with an antemortem medical X-ray taken a few months prior to death. The mastoid process was recovered from the fire scene, and the sinus pattern was convincingly matched to a recent antemortem X-ray. The recovered external occipital protuberance possessed asymmetrical characteristics, and two bone spicules that were successfully matched with a recent antemortem X-ray.
A witness to the disposal of the remains of a young woman on a farm located approximately 30 km northeast of Edmonton, Alberta, and who also was a witness to the description of the homicide of this individual made by two males, notified the police of the location of her remains. According to this witness, the victim had been stabbed and then shot. In an attempt to dispose of the remains, the suspects had wrapped her body in a carpet, which was then placed on creosote-soaked railway ties and ignited. The fire was maintained for 3 days. The fire debris containing the remains was then scooped up with the bucket of a front-end loader and scattered in a plowed field and over the partially buried, incompletely disassembled and burned-out frame of the victim’s vehicle. Over a 4-day period a team from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (including a forensic anthropologist) collected the remains from the scene. Analysis of the remains resulted in the identification of the suspected victim (Dowling and Beattie, 1988).
three locations on the property were identified by the witness as probably containing remains from the victim: the primary burn site near a trailer home, a 45-gal drum adjacent to the burn site and used by the resident of the trailer home for burning garbage, and the partially buried vehicle. The OCME team began its search for remains using these identified locations as starting points. A systematic foot search of the scene was able to locate bone fragments on the soil surface. When plotted, clear limits to the bone distribution were noted which closely approximated the witness’s statements. A hands and knees search and recovery of surface remains followed the determination of the bone distribution limits. Discovered bone fragments were mapped in situ before removal. Hand troweling of these areas indicated that almost all of the remaining recoverable material was located in and on the soil that had been piled onto the partially buried vehicle. Further systematic hand troweling completed the recovery process. Screening was not used. The recovered remains consisted of 142 bone fragments ranging in size from 1.7 x 1.2 cm to 4.5 x 0.8 cm.
The individual in Case 2 was assessed for age using cranial sutures, osteophytic lipping, and epiphyseal fusion. These indicators suggested a young adult, over 25 and less than 35 years. Again, in this case, there were no pubic bones and the teeth were too fragmentary to be used for any age assessment. Further to the value of teeth in cases involving cremated remains, if these cases are used for comparison, the survival of teeth was minimal; if they did survive, then only root fragments or separated crown fragments were available for analysis.
Pathology was also used in Case 2 to establish the identification of the victim. A small fragment of bone found during the scene search, and measuring 3 cm x 1.2 cm x 1.5 cm, was recognized as an osteochondroma, and was matched to an osteochondroma visible in an antemortem X-ray of the left femur of the suspected victim. Other materials providing support for the identification included a small fragment of maxillary bone that demonstrated healed antemortem tooth loss of the left canine and left second premolar. This fragment was compared to the antemortem dental X-ray of the suspected victim that recorded the canine extraction 4 years previously. There was also a photograph of this individual smiling, exposing the maxillary dentition with missing canine and premolar.
Cremation Remains of Commercial Crematoria
Contrary to popular belief, crematory ovens do not release bodies to ash. Here are some images of cremation remains from commercial crematoria.
Processing of Cremation Remains: could they have been crushed to dust with sticks of wood?
From what we’ve said above, it’s clear that even if the Germans were able to cremate the gassed Jews completely successfully, each cremation would have left a great deal of identifiable cremation remains. Might these remains have been destroyed in the bone crushing process alleged to have taken place at the camps? Traditionally, the cremation remains are said to have been crushed with sticks, or perhaps round logs. More recently the claim has been made that a ball mill was used, but only at Belzec (and Chelmno).
Chapter 4 of The Analysis of Burned Human Remains addresses this question. I’ll extract the key portion here, but anyone who’s interested should download the book and read it for himself.
The upshot is this: even after crushing remains with a block of wood or in a ball mill, there will be many identifiable bone and tooth fragments.
Cremated remains are reduced to a smaller volume for either inurnment and/or scattering by means of a processor, a pulverizer, or a cremulator. There are a variety of processing methods that have been regularly employed in the United States such as hand processing, ball/hammer mill processing, and the newest method called the rotary hinge blade processor. The method of processing determines the size of the bone and tooth fragments, and as a result, it is possible to determine the specific processing method that was used to reduce cremated remains based on the particulate size (Warren and Schultz, 2002). Hand processing consists of using a blunt object such as a piece of wood or a cremation magnet to pulverize cremated remains. We have observed cremations from Europe that were processed using this method, and in the United States, cremated remains from neonates, infants, and small children are sometimes hand processed to preserve sufficient volume for memorialization. Hand processing results in complete bones and large diagnostic bone and tooth fragments that are easily identifiable (Figure 4.6). Cremated remains from adults are less frequently hand processed in the United States because the resultant volume generally exceeds the capacity of a standard size urn. Older ball or hammer mill processors are mechanical processors that were the standard for many years (Figure 4.7). Cremated remains are placed in a perforated steel drum that contains a number of metal balls or cylinders. As the drum rotates, the hammers pulverize the cremains into smaller and smaller fragments inside the drum until they are small enough to fall through the perforations (approximately 4 mm in diameter) into a collection bin at the bottom of the machine. This process continues until all of the material is small enough to fit through the perforations. This reduction method results in diagnostic tooth and bone fragments and complete ear ossicles are often preserved. In addition, there is excellent survivability of the small nonosseous artifacts. It is important to note that damage to the perforations can result in larger openings in the drum that would allow preservation of larger fragments. In addition, bone fragments and nonosseous materials can become lodged in the perforations and then dislodged during successive cremations resulting in commingling. A recurring problem in the industry is the occasional situation in which the volume of the remains exceeded the capacity of the industry standard-sized urn when hammer mill processors were used. Funeral directors were burdened with the ethical decision to inform the family about the additional cremains. The majority of crematories in the United States and Canada now use what has been coined a rotary hinge blade processor, first introduced in 1987 by an industrial engineering firm in Florida (Warren and Schultz, 2002). According to the manufacturer, this processor was created to reduce human cremains to a small enough volume to fit in the industry standard-sized urn of 200 in.3 The processor looks very similar to a food processor for a reason – the prototype was based on an industrial-grade food processor. Cremated remains are placed into a metal pot with a metal blade at the bottom that is hinged on both sides with ends that are angled upward to provide lift to facilitate mixing of the remains (Figure 4.8). There is a timer on the machine and the manufacturer asserts that only 30-s cycles are required to process the remains. While older processing methods reduced bones down to small fragments that were easily identifiable, the newest rotary blade processors reduced bones to primarily ash and nonidentifiable bone fragments (Figure 4.9) (Warren and Schultz, 2002). The reduction is time-dependent (i.e., the longer the processor is turned on, the smaller the fragments will become). As a result, it may be difficult, or impossible in some cases, to determine if the remains are human based on the osseous material alone. Although the majority of the cremains are nondiagnostic, it may be possible to retrieve diagnostic osseous fragments depending primarily on the condition of the blade and the length of the processing cycle (Warren and Schultz, 2002). As the blade wears in length, larger bone and tooth fragments will survive the processing cycle.
Note that hand processing is the method alleged to have been used at the Reinhardt camps, except for possibly Belzec, which is sometimes alleged to have had a ball mill.
Here are some hand-processed remains of a cremated foetus. Obviously the remains of an adult or even a child would be even larger.
This is a ball mill for processing cremation remains.
Here is a rotary hinge blade processor:
Here are some tooth fragments from cremation remains processed with a rotary hinge blade processor:
Here’s the referenced paper of Warren and Schultz, which is worth reading:
Survival of Teeth
Revisionist arguments about cremation remains have thus far focused on teeth, and pointed to statements indicating that teeth are the hardest part of the body to destroy. HDOT, on the other hands, asserts that teeth will completely destroyed in a cremation. What is the truth of the matter?
Chapter 3 of The Analysis of Burned Human Remains addresses this question. I won’t try to replicate the information here, but the following table summarizes the fate of teeth in fires:
The case of serial killer Herbert Baumeister offers another case study in the survival of teeth:
CASE STUDY: BAUMEISTER HOMICIDES
The case described in Chapter 13 of this volume involves one of the most notorious serial killers in Indiana’s history. Over the span of a few years in the mid-1990s, at least 11 young adult males were allegedly sexually asphyxiated by Herbert Baumeister who placed the bodies in a wooded area behind his house. At a later point in time, he collected some of the bodies and burned them in a small drainage channel, near to where he originally placed them. The bodies were thoroughly burned and fragmented, and a sizable percentage of the bone and tooth fragments washed downslope as rainwater periodically filled the drainage channel.
In addition to thousands of bone fragments, forensic archeologists from the University of Indianapolis recovered approximately 100 tooth fragments, including crowns and roots, which ranged in color from unburned to calcined. None of the burned teeth retained its crown. Transverse fractures dominated, although longitudinal fractures also occurred. For the most part, the molar roots had separated and the enamel-less cervical dentin was generally in poor
condition. Most of the fragments were dark blue, suggesting that the fire was not hot enough and/or long enough to fully calcinate all of the dental tissues. A majority of the teeth (and bones, for that matter) were highly fragmented, indicating that mechanical disturbances, such as stoking the fire, had broken up many of the elements. It is possible that fragmentation continued after the burning event via a variety of taphonomic forces, including plants, animals, and water.
Along with the burned dental fragments were a number of nearly completely unburned anterior teeth. Presumably these single-rooted teeth fell out of the partly decomposed jaws during their moving and preparation for burning. The unburned teeth were limited to maxillary and mandibular central and lateral incisors, all found just under the ground surface below the burned bone concentrations.
I used several morphological, pathological, and restorative traits to create three partial dentitions (Figure 3.7). One individual had a prominent deposit of calculus on the lingual aspect of his lower incisors and distinctively dark roots. Another had long, yellowish roots, and the third had robust roots and some interproximal resin fillings. The teeth that seemed to match up were placed into clay arches, which were then occluded to compare maxillary and
mandibular wear facets. I started with the better-preserved anterior teeth and worked distally to add fire-damaged teeth to each dentition. This was done by careful comparison of the morphology of both the burned and unburned teeth. Some molar roots were reattached by fitting together spurs and notches, and a few burned canine roots were matched to the incisors by their shape and size.
One partly burned lower premolar crown had an amalgam filling, but it did not have an interproximal contact facet that matched any of the burned canine crowns. Its contact facets were not placed on its mesial- and distal-most points, indicating that the tooth erupted slightly rotated. Another premolar crown fragment matched up with the restored premolar, but it was difficult to determine which set of unburned incisors matched these premolars because
no canine crown was similar enough to both the incisors and premolars. Eventually, I realized it was a blackened canine root fragment that belonged to these teeth. Similarities in enamel color and calculus thickness supported the connection between these particular premolars and anterior teeth, and together they yielded the third partial dentition.
Of the three reconstructed dentitions, a consulting forensic dentist positively identified two of them. The person with the restored premolar actually had that tooth misaligned – not rotated – in life, but making the effort to include that tooth in the dentition aided in the identification. Without these reconstructions, despite their difficulties, two victims might have gone unidentified.
The book Teeth by Simon Hillson, which contrary to what you might imagine given its pop-sciencey sounding name, is a serious academic book from the Cambridge Manuals in Archaeology series, offers the following information:
Where teeth have been caught up in fires, strong heating changes the SEM appearance of dentine (Shipman et al., 1984). At 185–285 ◦ C the peritubular dentine shrinks, splitting away from the intertubular dentine. At 285–440 ◦ C, fractured surfaces under the SEM are smoother, with the peritubular/intertubular dentine boundary obliterated. Also in this temperature range, tubules become oval in section. At 440–800 ◦ C, fractured surfaces have a granular appearance and the section of the tubules is even more elliptical. Between 800 and 900 ◦ C granules coalesce into larger, rounded, smoother globules, some 0.5–1 µm across. In human cremations, the covering enamel usually fractures away to leave the conical outlines of the EDJ. Roots also fracture into drum-like segments. Generally, these are well preserved and can to some extent be identified, with care.
Teeth are frequently caught up in fires on archaeological sites. Strong heating can change the appearance of enamel under the SEM (Shipman et al., 1984). At 185–285 ◦ C, the appearance of a fractured surface under the SEM is smoother than normal. At 285–440 ◦ C such surfaces appear granular and at 440–800 ◦ C larger glassy granules are visible, separated by pores and fissures. Between 800 and 840 ◦ C the granules coalesce into larger, rounded, smooth globules about 0.5–1 µm across. In cremations of adult humans, enamel is usually lost completely, fracturing away to expose the surface of the dentine but, where developing teeth are protected inside the bone of children’s jaws, the enamel often survives (McKinley, 1994).
The book can be downloaded here.
According to Forensic Dentistry (second edition, edited by David R. Senn and Paul G. Stimson, download here):
Teeth are known to survive most postmortem events, including natural phenomena such as decomposition and autolysis, as well as environmental insults, such as water immersion, burial, and fires to as hot as 1,100°C.
Some pictures help us put things in perspective. Here are two images of calcined (or calcinated) teeth:
And here is a tooth that has lost all its enamel in a fire:
It’s worth remembering that “calcined” is a higher state of destruction that “carbonized.” These photos help to avoid misinterpretations of phrases like “the teeth were destroyed” (on which the HDOT analysis rests).
Experience with Modern Pyre Cremations
Here is a modern pyre cremation:
Here are some remains from a modern pyre cremation:
Long Term Survival of Cremation Remains
We have established that cremations leave osseous remains, and that these could not have been destroyed by any method allegedly used at the Reinhardt camps. Might they have been destroyed by the passage of time?
The Lawrence County case considered above shows that 22 years does not destroy the remains of one cremated individual. Archaeological examples show that even thousands of years do not suffice:
The Archaeology of Human Bones by Simon Mays has a chapter on cremated bone (download the book here), which tells us the following about the long term survival of cremated bone:
SURVIVAL OF CREMATED BONE IN THE SOIL
It has long been noted (e.g. de Jong 1926) that cremated bone tends to survive better in the soil than unburnt bone. Cremated bone also has greater mechanical strength than unburnt archaeological bone. By apparent contrast, observations made on experimentally burnt bone (Stiner et al. 1995), and on bone from modern crematoria (Dokladal 1970; Wahl 1982), have shown that after burning the fragments are very fragile and prone to further breakage. Stiner et al. (1995) found that the degree of fragility increased with the thoroughness of firing.
The reasons why bone is very fragile immediately after burning, yet archaeological cremated bone has a fairly high mechanical strength and is very resistant to destruction in the soil, are unclear, but a few points are worth bearing in mind. Wahl (1982) stated that cremated bone regains strength after firing due to uptake of water. Posner (1969) has shown that hydroxyapatite, the chief constituent of bone mineral, converts to another mineral, beta-tricalcium phosphate, when exposed to temperatures above about 800°C. On cooling there is a rapid re-reaction back to hydroxyapatite on the uptake of moisture from air or soil (Herrmann and Grupe 1988). Perhaps this reversion to hydroxyapatite of large crystal size is to some extent responsible for the regaining of strength on uptake of water which Wahl (1982) has noted for fired bone.
In archaeological contexts, unburnt bone is subject to decomposition by micro-organisms which attack the organic component and in so doing release acidic byproducts which dissolve the mineral part (see Chapter 2). Thoroughly fired bone lacks an organic component, so is not attractive to micro-organisms. This may play a part in aiding its survival in the soil. Cremated bone also appears to be more resistant to dissolution in acidic soils than is unburnt bone. The reasons for this are unclear, but are presumably connected with the structural changes to the mineral part, consequent on heating.
The number of individuals that a collection of cremation remains represents can be estimated by its weight and the degree of oxidation. There’s some information on cremation weights in this paper, which was pointed out to me by Zulu:
Revisionist arguments should offer a few more qualifications on tooth fragmentation than they have hitherto.
Bones have been unduly neglected by revisionists in favor of teeth, but the surviving bone fragments will without doubt be more prominent than surviving teeth.
No anti-revisionist has approached this topic in an intellectually honest manner,
The cremation remains are there. The truth is under the earth. They have not been destroyed by crushing or by time. It’s important to note that this is a quantitative question. Even if revisionists are correct, there will still be cremation remains at the Reinhardt camps today. Whether 9, 90, 900, 9,000, 90,000, or 900,000 people were cremated at Treblinka, archaeologists can find and analyze the cremation remains today. An excavation can settle these questions – if the orthodoxy has the courage to allow one. God knows they aren’t short on funds, so it’s a matter of whether or not they’re willing to discover the truth. I’m guessing they’re not.