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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Presentation Transcript
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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