Joseph Hefner

  • Assistant Professor | Director, MSU Forensic Anthropology Lab


Fee Hall A420A

Curriculum vitae

Research Interests

  • Biological Anthropology
  • Forensic Anthropology
  • Ancestry
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Categorical Data Analysis
  • Data Mining
  • Spatial Analysis
  • Trauma Analysis

Biographical Info

Dr. Joseph HEFNER is an assistant professor of anthropology and the Director of the MSU Forensic Anthropology Lab, where is specializes in forensic anthropology and quantitative methods. His interests in forensic anthropology include the estimation of ancestry using macromorphoscopic (cranial nonmetric) traits and cranial and postcranial metrics. The focus of Dr. Hefner’s research is the standardization and quantification of macromorphoscopic traits with robust and appropriate classification statistics, including data mining techniques and machine learning methods. One aspect of this type of research is the seemingly endless need for more data. To that end, Dr. Hefner is currently establishing the Forensic Macromorphoscopic Databank at Michigan State University, with a grant provided by the National Institute of Justice. Dr. Hefner’s professional activities center on forensic anthropological method and theory and statistical approaches to biological anthropology, including biodistance analysis, categorical data analysis, geometric morphometric methods, data excavation, and parametric/nonparametric classification statistics.

Dr. Hefner’s graduate students participate in current research on cranial macromorphoscopic traits and pursue their own academic/applied interests.

Dr. Hefner is a board certified forensic anthropologist (D-ABFA) and a founding editor of Forensic Anthropology (journal). He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, a member of the Register of Professional Archaeologists, American Association of Anatomists, Sigma Xi, and he is an Assessor for the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors, Laboratory Accreditation Board.

Current Research Projects

Macromorphoscopic Databank (NIJ 2015-DN-BX-K012)

Subadult Dental Age Estimation (NIJ 2018-DU-BX-0182; w/Nicholas P. Herrmann – Texas State)

Morphoscopic Trait Variability in Medellin, Colombia (w/ Dra. Timisay Monsalve Vargas)

Ancestry in Roman London (w/ Dr. Rebecca Redfern)

Spatial Analysis and Intra-cemetery Variability

Ancestry Estimations in the 21st Century


2019  Building constituencies through evidence-based outreach: Findings from an archaeological STEM camp for International Baccalaureate high school students in the USA. Stacey L. Camp, Joseph T. Hefner, Leigh Graves Wolf & Lynne Goldstein, Journal of Community Archaeology & Heritage, DOI: 10.1080/20518196.2019.1674474

*2019 Missing Data Imputation Methods Using Morphoscopic Traits and Their Performance in the Estimation of Ancestry. MW Kenyhercz, NV Passalacqua, JT Hefner. Forensic Anthropology 2(3):1:11.  

2019 “Ancestry Estimation Using Craniometric and Macromorphoscopic Data: Analytical Feasibility and 21st Century Transnationalism” JT Hefner and JF Byrnes. In, Case Studies in Forensic Anthropology: Bonified Skeletons. Eds. Garvin-Elling, H, NR Langley. CRC: Boca Raton.

2019    “Officially absent but actually present”: bioarchaeological evidence for population diversity in London during the Black Death, 1348-50 AD. R Redfern and JT Hefner. In, Bioarchaeology of Marginalized People. Eds. Mant, ML, AJ Holland. Elsevier Press: London.

2019    Observer error and its impact on ancestry estimation using dental morphology. MA Pilloud, DM Adams, JT Hefner. International Journal of Legal Medicine.

2018    Atlas of Human Cranial Macromorphoscopic Traits. JT Hefner and KC Linde. San Diego: Elsevier, Academic Press. [book]

2018 The Macromorphoscopic Databank. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 2018;00:1–11.|11

2018    Forensic Anthropology: A Journal for our Discipline. NV Passalacqua, AM Christensen, JT Hefner. Forensic Anthropology 1(1):1-3.

2018    Forensic fractography of bone:  A new approach to skeletal trauma analysis. AM Christensen, JT Hefner, MA Smith, JB Webb, MC Bottrell, TW Fenton. Forensic Anthropology 1(1):32-51DOI 10.5744/fa.2018.0004

2018  Structural Violence and Disease: Epistemological Considerations for Bioarchaeology. LN Bright, JT Hefner. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 165(1):36.

2018  Refining Asian Ancestry Classifications via Cranial Macromorphoscopic Traits. AM Plemons, KR Kamnikar, JT Hefner. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 165(1).

2017    Intraobserver Error in Macromorphoscopic Trait Analysis. KR Kamnikar, AM Plemons, and JT Hefner. Journal of Forensic Sciences. doi:10.1111/1556-4029.13564

2017    “From Blumenbach to Howells: The slow, painful emergence of theory through forensic race estimation” SD Ousley, RL Jantz, JT Hefner. Forensic Anthropology: Theoretical Framework and Scientific Basis, C. Clifford Boyd, Jr. and Donna C. Boyd, editors.  Forensic Science in Focus Series.  Cambridge: Wiley-Blackwell in association with the American Academy of Forensic Sciences

2017       “Krogman, Wilton (1903-1987)” NJ Sauer, JT Hefner. The International Encyclopedia of Biological Anthropology.

2017       “Ancestry: Forensic Applications” JT Hefner, MK Spradley. The International Encyclopedia of Biological Anthropology.

2017    “Advances in Cranial Macromorphoscopic Trait and Dental Morphology Analysis for Ancestry Estimation” MA Pilloud, C Maier, GR Scott, JT Hefner. In, New Perspectives in Forensic Human Skeletal Identification. Eds. Krista Latham, Eric Bartelink, Michael Finnegan. Academic Press: San Diego. 23-34.

2016    “Human Variation” JT Hefner, CL Nagle, PB Stanton. In People in a Changing Land: The Archaeology and History of the Ballona in Los Angeles: Bioarchaeology and Paleodemography, edited by PB Stanton, JG Douglas, SN Reddy, 235-244. Tucson, AZ: SRI Press.

2016    “Preservation and Population” PB Stanton and JT Hefner. In People in a Changing Land: The Archaeology and History of the Ballona in Los Angeles: Bioarchaeology and Paleodemography, edited by PB Stanton, JG Douglas, SN Reddy, 209-234. Tucson, AZ: SRI Press.

2017 Application of the Stephan et al. chest radiograph comparison method to decomposed human remains. MI Isa, JT Hefner, MA Markey. Journal of Forensic Sciences. doi:10.1111/1556-4029.13432.

2016 Craniofacial Secular Change in Recent Mexican Migrants. MK Spradley, K Stull, JT Hefner. Human Biology, 88(1):15-29.

2016 Going south of the river: a multidisciplinary analysis of ancestry, mobility and diet in a population from Roman Southwark, London. RC Redfern, DR Gröcke, AR Millard, V Ridgeway, L Johnson, JT Hefner. Journal of Archaeological Science 74:11-22.

2016 Possible Achondroplastic Dwarf Skull from Montevideo, Uruguay. JT Hefner and MW Warren. Journal of Forensic Sciences. doi: 10.1111/1556-4029.13186.

2016 Ancestry Estimation using Macromorphoscopic Traits. A Plemons and JT Hefner. Academic Journal of Forensic Pathology 6(3)400-412. doi: 10.1433/afpj.2014-1234.

2016    Macromorphoscopic Trait Expression in a Cranial Sample from Medellín, Colombia. TM Vargas and JT Hefner. Forensic Science International. DOI:

2016    Biological Distance Analysis: Forensic and Bioarchaeological Perspectives. Edited by Marin A. Pilloud and Joseph T. Hefner. San Diego: Elsevier, Academic Press. [book]

2016    Biological Distance Analysis, Cranial Morphoscopic Traits, and Ancestry Assessments in Forensic Anthropology. JT Hefner. In, Biological Distance Analysis: Forensic and Bioarchaeological Perspectives. Edited by Marin A. Pilloud and Joseph T. Hefner. San Diego: Elsevier, Academic Press, pp. 301-316.

2016    A Brief History of Biological Distance Analysis. In, Biological Distance Analysis: Forensic and Bioarchaeological Perspectives. JT Hefner, MA Pilloud, CC Volgelsberg, JE Buikstra. Edited by Marin A. Pilloud and Joseph T. Hefner. San Diego: Elsevier, Academic Press. pp. 3-22.

2016    Beyond Taphonomy: Craniometric Variation within Anatomical Material. JT Hefner, B Spatola, N Passalacqua, T Gocha. Journal of Forensic Sciences. DOI: 10.1111/1556-4029.13177.

2016 Osteological Analysis for Archaeological Collections Management/ Ethnicity Determination – Joint Region Marinas, Guam. JT Hefner and KC Linde. Technical Report. Contract No. N40192-14-M-5013, Client: NAVFAC MARIANAS. Garcia and Associates Tech Report.

2016 The Assessment of Ancestry and the Concept of Race. NJ Sauer, JC Wankmiller, JT Hefner. In, Handbook of Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology, edited by Soren Blau and Douglas H. Ubelaker. World Archaeological Congress (WAC) Research Handbooks in Archaeology Series.Left Coast Press, Inc. Walnut Creek, California.

2015    Morphoscopic trait expression in ‘Hispanic’ populations. JT Hefner, MA Pilloud, CJ Black, BE Anderson. Journal of Forensic Sciences. Article first published online: 14 AUG 2015 DOI: 10.1111/1556-4029.12826

2015 The Use of Femoral Neck Axis Length (FNAL) to Estimate Sex and Ancestry. R Meeusen, A Christensen, JT Hefner Article first published online: 10 AUG 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/1556-4029.12820.

2015    Case Studies in Skeletal Blast Trauma. NA Willits, JT Hefner, MT Tersigni-Tarrant. In, Skeletal Trauma Analysis: Case Studies in Context. NV Passalacqua and CW Rainwater (editors). Wiley-Blackwell Press: NY. pp. 177-188.

2014 Cranial Morphoscopic Traits and the Assessment of American Black, American White, and Hispanic Ancestry, JT Hefner.  In, Biological Affinity in Forensic Identification of Human Skeletal Remains: Beyond Black and White. Edited by Sabrina Ta’ala and Gregory Berg. Taylor & Francis Group, LLC; Boca Raton, FL, pp. 27-42.

2014    The use of tooth crown measurements in the assessment of ancestry. M Pilloud,  JT Hefner, T Hanihara, A Hyashi. Journal of Forensic Science. 59(6) 1493-1501.

2014    Statistical Classification Methods for Estimating Ancestry using Morphoscopic Traits. JT Hefner and Stephen D. Ousley. Journal of Forensic Science, 59(4) 883-890.

2014    Random Forest Modeling and Ancestry Estimation. JT Hefner, MK Spradley, B Anderson. Journal of Forensic Science, 59(3) 583-589.

2013    Congenital Os Odontoideum: An Unusual Constellation of Skeletal Features in an Osteological Specimen from Thailand. R.W. Mann, P. Tuamsuk, JT HefnerInternational Journal of Paleopathology, 3: 302-306.