Forensic anthropology
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FORENSIC ANTHROPOLOGY. “The pathologist’s domain is that of dead bodies; the forensic anthropologist applies his expertise to skeletal remains.”. I – Recovery of Remains II – Skeletal examination III – Forensic identification IV – Reconstructing identity. Legal aspects

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Forensic anthropology


Forensic anthropology

  • “The pathologist’s domain is that of dead bodies; the forensic anthropologist applies his expertise to skeletal remains.”

Forensic anthropology

  • I – Recovery of Remains

  • II – Skeletal examination

  • III – Forensic identification

  • IV – Reconstructing identity

Recovery of remains

Legal aspects

Court order for exhumation

Exact location of burial

Date and time of exhumation

Complete list of persons attending

Scaled sketches of gravesite


Burial site

Coffin in situ

Coffin above ground

Recovery of Remains

Clandestinely buried bodies


Disturbances of soil or vegetation

Aerial photography with infrared film

Ground search

Sunken area

Damage to vegetation

Steel rod probe

Methane gas detector

Grid pattern

Remove only a few inches of soil at a time

Clandestinely buried bodies

After remains are recovered

After remains are recovered

  • Coffin or remains transported to morgue or other facility

  • Careful opening – protect evidence for court

Anthropology research facility

Decay rate facility

Mummification – desiccation

Adipocere – “grave wax”



Even is not in any type of container, bodies will last longer underground

Rule of Thumb for rate of decomp –

One week open air = two weeks in water = eight weeks underground

Anthropology Research Facility

The body farm

“The Body Farm”

Skeletal examination

“A person’s job, diet, illness, chronic disease and/or trauma leave their mark on a person’s skeletal remains.”

Skeletal examination

Identification techniques

Morphological analysis


Marked by size and shape

Metric analysis

Hamann-Todd/ Cleveland (3,100)

Terry/Smithsonian (1,600)

Cobb/ Howard University (600)

Identification techniques

Formulas from metric analysis

Formulas from Metric Analysis

  • From collections

  • Forensic Data Bank (FDB) – UT Knoxville in 1980s

  • FORDISC – UT in 1993 and updated periodically – computer program

Anthropological examination

Excavated remains cleaned in forensic lab

Arranged in correct anatomical order

Anthropological Examination

Forensic anthropology

  • Depending upon bones present, forensic anthropologist may be able to determine

    • Sex

    • Race

    • Age

    • Stature

Immature vs mature skeleton

Immature vs Mature Skeleton

  • Before puberty biological identification of remains can be difficult

    • Bones are mostly cartilage

    • Growth plates not fused

    • Sexual differences not as pronounced

    • Best determinant – skull with dentition

Sex determination pelvis

Sex determination - Pelvis

Sex determination long bones

Sex determination – Long Bones

Humerus radius femur

Humerus, Radius, Femur

Sex determination skull

Sex determination - Skull

Race determination skull

Race determination - Skull

  • Race determinations

    • Mongoloid

      • Asian

      • Native American Indian

    • Caucasoid

      • White

      • Hispanic

    • Negroid

      • African American







Age determination dentition

Characteristics of Dentition

Less affected by environmental factors

Hardest structure in human body

Tooth buds developing 2nd month after conception

Eruption follows pattern

In Adult skeleton

Resorption of bone


Root resorption

Cementum annulation – counting tree trunk rings

Age determination - Dentition

Deciduous eruption

Deciduous eruption

Permanent eruption

Permanent eruption

Age long bone development

Age – Long bone development

Age skull development

Age – Skull development

  • 29 bones in the skull

  • Initial fusion few weeks postnatal

  • Continues through age 21 – 35 yrs

  • Mathematical formulas for using sutures to determine age

Height determination long bones

Height determination – Long bones

  • Rule of thumb – “Height roughly equals 5 times the length of the humerus.”

  • Since it is only an estimate, always have height be a range

  • Formulas

    2.38 (femur length cm)+61.41 = Stature +/- 3.27

Evidence of trauma

Manner of death




Natural causes

Undetermined causes

Cause of death – medical reason for death




Gun shot wound


Evidence of Trauma

Determine when trauma took place

Determine when Trauma took place

  • Antemortem – before death

  • Perimortem – around the time of death

  • Postmortem – after death occurred

Antemortem trauma

Antemortem trauma

  • Bone healing or bone remodeling – depends upon

    • Age/health of individual

    • Nature/extent of injury

    • Location of injury

  • Bone healing has a distinctive look

    • Bony callus

    • Smooth edges

  • Usually no clues as to death

Perimortem trauma

Lesions have no sign of healing

Perimortem trauma

Postmortem trauma

Intentional dismemberment

Tool marks left on bone

Unintentional dismemberment

Animal tooth marks left on bone

Postmortem trauma

Burned bone

Short duration fires

Skeleton usually survives


Very small fragments and ash

Differences in prolonged fires with green bones and dry bones

Burned bone


Green bone – fleshed bones

Deep transverse fracture lines


Blackened tissue

Dry bone

Longitudinal fracture line

Superficial cracking

Little warping


Reconstructing identity

Reconstructing Identity

  • Forensic Odontology

  • Facial Reconstruction

  • Nuclear or Genomic DNA

  • Mitochondrial DNA

Forensic odontology

Forensic Odontology

  • Antemortem and Postmortem dental charting and radiographs

    • Missing,unerupted, or extracted teeth; supernumerary teeth

    • Restorations and prostheses

    • Decay

Facial reconstruction

Plastic 3 D reconstruction

2 dimensional reconstruction

Facial Reconstruction

Forensic anthropology

  • Computerized programs for Facial Reconstruction

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