Forensic Anthropology

Forensic Anthropology

Ever wondered what goes into identifying skeletal remains?

A forensic anthropologist is one of the most important people involved in solving the case of someone who has died. They can assist in the identification of deceased individuals whose remains are burned, mutilated, decomposed or generally unrecognisable, such as in the case of mass graves or plane crashes.

A lot goes into identifying a body and determining the case of death, below are the methods a forensic anthropologist must go through to help identify remains.

Determination of sex

Certain bones differ between males and females, such as the pelvis, and these can be used (where present) to determine the sex of the remains. The skull also has many markers that can be used to determine sex such as the eye sockets.

Determination of stature

The way a skeleton has formed can give forensic anthropologists a good indication of the stature of that person. The most commonly used bones for these are the leg bones and the bones of the arms. When determining stature it also helps to give an approximate age of the person due to skeleton shrinkage as someone ages.

Determination of age

Determining the age of children, or people under the age of 21, is performed by examining the teeth. If teeth aren't present, age can also be determined by which growth plates are sealed, as these seal at different points during a person's growth.

Determination of ancestry

An individual's ancestry is usually grouped into three historical groups, Caucasoid, Mongoloid and Negroid. However, with the increase of interracial marriages, these markers and classifications are becoming less defined.

Other markers

Bone fractures are also useful to forensic anthropologists as they enable them to determine whether this was the cause of death as well as whether it was caused before death, at the time of death or even after death.

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