The analysis of cremains (cremated remains) or suspected cremains can have implications for a wide-array of inquiries, including forensic, insurance, archaeological, medico-legal, and anthropological investigations. Microtrace has examined cremains in order to address questions relating to arson, the intentional destruction of evidence, verification of insurance claims, the identification of incomplete, commingled, or misattributed ashes, and the investigation of archaeological sites. In some cases, there is a question as to whether a substance is cremains, ash, or some other material entirely. Microtrace’s analyses have been able to confirm whether or not a given sample is cremains and, if not, properly identify it.


Fire alone cannot completely eliminate a human body. Despite the popular portrayal of ashes as merely an unexceptional fine powder, true specimens are recovered in a variety of sizes and conditions. From recently deceased remains with intact soft tissue, to fragmentary specimens, to the more typical crushed and powdered form, these materials carry important markers which our scientists can analyze to confirm whether the sample is composed partially or entirely of cremains and to identify the composition of the other materials. The full analytical picture that is developed through an appropriate analysis may provide confirming information about the identity of an individual, information about the means of death, and the “what, where, and when.” Years of experience analyzing and studying cremains, familiarity with the scientific literature on the topic, and a thorough understanding of the materials that may be encountered, enable us to address questions that DNA analysis alone cannot answer, and allow us to retrieve information from samples even when DNA analysis is not possible. While there are always limitations that must be faced with any given sample, Microtrace utilizes a thoughtful, scientifically-supported approach to extract as much relevant information as possible from a given sample.

Microtrace can help clients answer a variety of questions related to cremains, from context of death to the identification of cremains and the characterization of individual components in a cremains sample. Microtrace’s state-of-the-art laboratory enables our knowledgeable scientists to select from a multitude of techniques, including light microscopy, electron microscopy, elemental analysis, spectroscopy, chromatography, and x-ray diffraction, to analyze the different components that might be contained in the sample. In the event that DNA analysis becomes necessary as well, Microtrace works seamlessly with expert providers to provide a complete solution to the issues.

Dignified handling

Microtrace scientists and staff recognize the importance of proper and dignified management of human remains, and handle cremains with the utmost respect throughout the entire length of our custody- from sample reception and analysis to its return. Microtrace prides itself on its professionalism with respect to both sample examination and client relations.

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