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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  • I – Recovery of Remains forensic anthropologist applies his expertise to skeletal remains.”

  • II – Skeletal examination

  • III – Forensic identification

  • IV – Reconstructing identity

Recovery of remains

Legal aspects forensic anthropologist applies his expertise to skeletal remains.”

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

Helicopters forensic anthropologist applies his expertise to skeletal remains.”

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 forensic anthropologist applies his expertise to skeletal remains.”

  • Coffin or remains transported to morgue or other facility

  • Careful opening – protect evidence for court

Anthropology research facility

Decay rate facility forensic anthropologist applies his expertise to skeletal remains.”

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” forensic anthropologist applies his expertise to skeletal remains.”

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 trauma leave their mark on a person’s skeletal remains.”


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 trauma leave their mark on a person’s skeletal remains.”

  • 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 trauma leave their mark on a person’s skeletal remains.”

Arranged in correct anatomical order

Anthropological Examination

Immature vs mature skeleton
Immature vs Mature Skeleton able to determine

  • 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 able to determine

Humerus radius femur
Humerus, Radius, Femur able to determine

Sex determination skull
Sex determination - Skull able to determine

Race determination skull
Race determination - Skull able to determine

  • Race determinations

    • Mongoloid

      • Asian

      • Native American Indian

    • Caucasoid

      • White

      • Hispanic

    • Negroid

      • African American

Mongoloid able to determine

Caucasoid able to determine

Negroid able to determine

Age determination dentition

Characteristics of Dentition able to determine

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 able to determine

Permanent eruption
Permanent eruption able to determine

Age skull development
Age – Skull development able to determine

  • 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 able to determine

  • 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 able to determine




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 able to determine

  • Antemortem – before death

  • Perimortem – around the time of death

  • Postmortem – after death occurred

Antemortem trauma
Antemortem trauma able to determine

  • 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 able to determine

Perimortem trauma

Postmortem trauma

Intentional dismemberment able to determine

Tool marks left on bone

Unintentional dismemberment

Animal tooth marks left on bone

Postmortem trauma

Burned bone

Short duration fires able to determine

Skeleton usually survives


Very small fragments and ash

Differences in prolonged fires with green bones and dry bones

Burned bone


Green bone – fleshed bones able to determine

Deep transverse fracture lines


Blackened tissue

Dry bone

Longitudinal fracture line

Superficial cracking

Little warping


Reconstructing identity
Reconstructing Identity able to determine

  • Forensic Odontology

  • Facial Reconstruction

  • Nuclear or Genomic DNA

  • Mitochondrial DNA

Forensic odontology
Forensic Odontology able to determine

  • Antemortem and Postmortem dental charting and radiographs

    • Missing,unerupted, or extracted teeth; supernumerary teeth

    • Restorations and prostheses

    • Decay

Facial reconstruction

Plastic 3 D reconstruction able to determine

2 dimensional reconstruction

Facial Reconstruction