forensic anthropology

The website that I explored for a professional organization representing a subfield of biological anthropology was the American Board of Forensic Anthropology (ABFA). The ABFA was incorporated in 1977. Forensic anthropology is the application of biological anthropology to the legal process. Forensic anthropologists use a multi-disciplinary approach to uncover the secrets hidden in bones. According to the ABFA, forensic anthropology the analysis of skeletal, badly decomposed, or otherwise unidentified human remains is important in both legal and humanitarian contexts. Forensic anthropologists apply standard scientific techniques developed in physical anthropology to analyze human remains, and to aid in the detection of crime. In addition to assisting in locating and recovering human skeletal remains, forensic anthropologists work to assess the age, sex, ancestry, stature, and unique features of a decedent from the skeleton. Forensic anthropologists frequently work in conjunction with forensic pathologists, odontologists, and homicide investigators to identify a decedent, document trauma to the skeleton, and/or estimate the postmortem interval. This study contributes to the broader themes of anthropology, which is to study the origin and behavior oh humans as well as the physical, social, and cultural development of humans. This subfield especially relates to the study of the physical development of humans because it includes estimating age, sex, stature, and ancestry. Identifying specific characteristics, like diseases or injuries are also a part of the job. In addition to helping identify human remains, the anthropologist analyzes injuries that happened around the time of a person’s death, which can help determine how a person died. Questions a forensic anthropologist asks includes: is it bone? Is it human? What bones are present? How many people are represented? Are the remains modern or ancient? Who is the individual? What is the sex? What is the age? There are three subsections within the field of forensic anthropology, including: Forensic Osteology which is the study of the skeleton, Forensic Archeology which involves the controlled collection of human remains, and Forensic Taphonomy which involves the study of changes to the body after death, including decomposition and environmental modification. Forensic anthropologists use a number of techniques when studying skeletal remains, including clay or graphic facial reproduction, scanning electron microscopy, radiographic techniques, photo or video superimposition techniques, thin-sectioning techniques of bone histology, the casting of skeletal materials, preservation of skeletal materials using commercial preservatives, rehydration and preservation of mummified or decayed soft tissues. Forensic anthropology includes archaeological excavation, as well as examination of hair, insects, facial reproduction, medicine, but still, the most important job for such a forensic is to identify a decadent body based on the evidence – and there is more use for this than you might think. Regardless of whether the skeleton is fossilized, prehistoric, historic, or modern, and regardless of the conditions in which it was found, the main goals of an osteological analysis are the same: to reconstruct as much as possible about a person’s life from a thorough examination of his or her bones after death. This subfield is very important to the understanding of humans and also to humans themselves.

5 thoughts on “forensic anthropology

  1. Hi Gilesmon, I explored the same website as you did- “The American Board of Forensic Anthropology”. I didn’t realize that it was established in 1977. That is really not that long ago. Forensics is so important today and is a big part of the legal process. I remember my husband, who is a retired State Trooper, going to court at least monthly, to be cross- examined about evidence he had collected at crime scenes. He was not a Forensic Anthropologist. He did receive much training and was certified by the Michigan State Police on how to collect and photograph evidence from crime scenes. He worked as a crime scene investigator but that was only a part of his job. There are so many sub-fields to Biological and Physical Anthology. I am proud that my husband was able to assist Forensic Anthropologists with doing their jobs.

  2. Hello,
    I really enjoyed reading your post. Before taking this class I was vaguely familiar with Forensic Anthropology because of the hit t.v series called Bones. Which is about a forensic Anthropologist that discovers what happens to a victim of a crime based on evidence left on the bone. It is cool to see that while not everything in the show is realistic that the show keeps to the nature of the job. I have always been fascinated by how much a trained anthropologist can get from just one bone. I really appreciated the detail of your blog post and how well rounded and thought out it was. The structure made it easy to follow and organized it beautifully I enjoyed learning about the three subsections that are within Forensic Anthropology and about the many tools with which forensic anthropologists study the bones. Thanks for an enjoyable post, I look forward to reading some more in the future.

  3. Reading this article is fascinating it makes me feel like forensic anthropology is one of the most important sub-fields of anthropology. Having this field gives the legal department an amazing way to solve crimes with science. Its so interesting how they can determine how the person got injured at the time of death, these people are an essential skill in order for homicides to be solved correctly rather than just solving case based on evidence you aren’t sure if its scientifically correct. The way this is done there is no way anyone can deny the evidence that the forensic department found because it was found using the raw body and data. If it were to be incorrect the forensic scientist would have to tamper the evidence.

  4. Forensic Anthropology is very interesting. It’s so different from any other branch of anthropology but it employs many of the same methods and thought processes.
    It’s different in that its goal is different and is relevant to present day as well as the legal application. A forensic anthropologist could also have a lot of pressure on him or her to finish the job quickly.
    What you said about the main goal (to reconstruct as much about the person’s life as possible) is very true of all of the anthropological branches, but it’s more literal in meaning with forensic anthropology and I find that fascinating.
    I did not know about the three subsections within forensic anthropology – that was very new information to me. I think I would find Forensic Taphonomy the most interesting.

  5. I really enjoy your posts and information that Forensic anthropologists can analyze “badly decomposed” and fossilized skeleton. The first time that I really know what Forensic anthropologists do is from the TV series called “Bones”, and I can say my knowledge about Forensic Anthropology is from this TV series. I was amazed that Forensic anthropologists can identify a person’s sex, age, time of death and cause of death based on a person’s skeleton. It is true that not only Forensic anthropologists’ mission is to identify human remains, but they study origin, behavior and culture of human. Moreover, identify the human remains of American soldiers is also one of the important mission for Forensic anthropologists to do. Overall, the organization and information about ABFA is well organized and clear.

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