Joseph Hefner

  • Assistant Professor


Baker Hall

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 where he 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. Dr. Hefner is establishing the Macromorphoscopic Databank (MaMD) 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 is a founding editor of Forensic Anthropology (journal), a Board-Certified Forensic Anthropologist, and a Member of the NIST OSAC Anthropology Subcommittee.

Dr. Hefner’s graduate students participate in casework and current research. They also pursue their own academic/applied interests.

Current Research Projects

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

Standardized graphic libraries (NIH R01 DE030100-01A1 w/ Dr. M Clarkson)

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

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

Macromorphoscopic Trait Variability

Spatial Analysis and Intra-cemetery Variability


2022  Confronting Cognitive Bias in Forensic Anthropology: Michigan’s Craigslist Killer Case. Alexis Goots, JT Hefner, David Start. Forensic Anthropology. 

2021 Craniometric variation in a regional sample from Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia: Implications for forensic work in the Americas. KR Kamnikar, JT Hefner, TM Monsalve, LM Bernal-Florez. Forensic Anthropology.

2021 Metric sexual dimorphism of the skull in Thailand. N. Techataweewan, JT Hefner, L Freas, N Surachotmongkhon, R Benchawattananon, N Tayles. Forensic Science International: Reports.

2021 Eugene “Gene” Giles. Biography. JT Hefner Forensic Anthropology. 4(1).

2021 Race and Science. R Redfern and JT Hefner. In: K Coles and D Kim (Eds). A Cultural History of Race in the Renaissance and Early Modern Age. Bloomsbury Academic: London.

2021 Ancestry estimation using morphological characteristics. KR Kamnikar, AM Plemons, MC Spiros, JT Hefner. In: J. Valdes, M.E. Quinto-Sanchez (Eds). Avances en Antropologia Forense.

2021 The use of bone fluorescence to facilitate DNA sampling. T Eleftheriou, K Papaioannou, A Christensen, JT Hefner. Forensic Anthropology 3:4

2020 Ancestry Estimation in Forensic Anthropology: A Review. RR Dunn, MC Sprios, KR Kamnikar, AM Plemons, JT Hefner. WIREs Forensic Sci. 2020; e1369.

2020 Morphoscopic Ancestry Estimates in Filipino Crania Using Multivariate Probit Regression Models. M Go, JT Hefner.  Am J Phys Anthropol. 2020.

2019 Ancestry Estimation Using Cranial and Postcranial Macromorphoscopic Traits. M Spiros, JT Hefner. Journal of Forensic Sciences, Early View, DOI: 10.1111/1556-4029.14231

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 “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 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    “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. JT Hefner. 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. K Latham, E Bartelink, M 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, Eds 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, Eds 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, Eds S Blau and DH 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. 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 Journal of Forensic Sciences. 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.