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Getting to the Bare Bones: What do Forensic Anthropologists Actually do?
Transcript of Getting to the Bare Bones: What do Forensic Anthropologists Actually do?
Dr. Christopher J. Rogers
• noun the study of humankind, especially the study of societies and cultures and human origins.
— DERIVATIVES anthropological adjective anthropologist noun.
— ORIGIN from Greek anthropos ‘human being’.
Anthropology in the Forensic Context
Forensic anthropology is the application of the science of physical or biological anthropology to the legal process. Physical or biological anthropologists who specialize in forensics primarily focus their studies on the human skeleton.
American Board of Forensic Anthropology (ABFA)
Remit of the Forensic Anthropologist
To assess whether or not an item, element or fragment is human bone.
To assist in human skeletal fragment identification and assess which parts or elements (if any) of a skeleton are missing and to establish if there are bones from more than one individual.
Victim identification from the skeleton, for example by assessing age-at-death, sex, stature and ancestry.
To comment on any peri- or post-mortem modification of the bone including burning, dismemberment and scavenging.
To assess and describe, if present, any peri-mortem injury.
To reconstruct fragmented bones in order to better assess trauma.
To comment on post-mortem interval.
To assist a Disaster Victim Identification team in a case of a Mass Disaster/Mass Fatalities.
Determination of Medico-legal Significance.
Recognition of osseous and dental material
Identification of human versus non-human remains
Determination as to whether human remains are of medico-legal concern
Recognition of osseous/dental remains.
Rock, wood, shell….
Human vs Non-human
Diagnostic of human
Diagnostic of non-human
Protein Radio Immuno Assay (pRIA)
Archaeological, disturbed cemeteries, anatomical collections, ceremonial / trophy remains
Minimum Number of Individuals: MNI
Look for duplicate skeletal elements
Separate adult from sub adult
Problem with commingling with animals
Use of DNA is expensive and time consuming
Caucasoid: White European, Middle Eastern, North African, and Indian subcontinent
Negroid: Sub-Saharan Africa
Mongoloid: Cental and East Asian, Native American, Inuit
Australoid: Australian Aborigine, Pacific Islanders
Methods for Ancestry Determination
Determination of Ancestry
Determination of Sex: Pelvis
To record and aid the recovery of human remains at a scene.
To advise on other methods of identification available to the investigators (e.g. DNA, forensic odontology, radiographic comparison of skeletal elements, comparison of medical implants vs. ante-mortem medical records).
To write statements and reports and attend court to give evidence as an expert witness.
Some FA will be competent to advise on facial reconstruction or approximation, stable isotope analysis, post-mortem interval dating, toxicology
Some FA will be practiced in examining radiographs and assessing age on living individuals to determine their age for legal purposes.
Some FA will be qualified to undertake facial reconstruction/approximation.
Determination of Sex: Skull
Age at Death
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