Ph.D. student Kelly Kamnikar and Dr. Joe Hefner publish in Forensic Anthropology

Department of Anthropology Ph.D. student Kelly Kamnikar, assistant professor Dr. Joe Hefner, and co-authors Dr. Timisay Monsalve, and Dr. Liliana Maria Bernal Florez recently published an article in Forensic Anthropology. The article is titled “Craniometric Variation in a Regional Sample from Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia: Implications for Forensic Work in the Americas.” This publication examines a sample from Antioquia, Colombia within a population affinity estimation framework. The authors aim to investigate intraregional variation via social labels within Antioquia and craniometric variation on a broad level, when pooled, as compared to other global, comparative samples. This research directly contributes to the refinement of the ‘Hispanic’ category in population affinity estimation models. While Colombians are not considered as one of the top clandestine migration groups to the U.S., the country has hosted a decades-long civil war where the missing and unidentified number into the 100,000s. Additionally, Colombia is geographically proximate to Venezuela and involved in current migration events, which could have forensic implications. This paper serves as a tool for forensic practitioners in the region who may encounter unidentified remains in their casework as a means for identification.

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Abstract: “Population affinity estimation is frequently assessed from measurements of the cranium. Traditional models place individuals into discrete groups―such as Hispanic―that often encompass very diverse populations. Current research, including this study, challenges these assumptions using more refined population affinity estimation analyses. We examine craniometric data for a sample of individuals from different regions in Antioquia, Colombia. We first assessed the sample to understand intraregional variation in cranial shape as a function of birthplace or a culturally constructed social group label. Then, pooling the Colombian data, we compare cranial variation with global contemporary and prehistoric groups. Results did not indicate significant intraregional variation in Antioquia; classification models performed poorly (28.6% for birthplace and 36.6% for social group). When compared to other groups (American Black, American White, Asian, modern Hispanic, and prehistoric Native American), our model correctly classified 75.5% of the samples. We further refined the model by separating the pooled Hispanic sample into Mexican and Guatemalan samples, which produced a correct classification rate of 74.4%. These results indicate significant differences in cranial form among groups commonly united under the classification “Hispanic” and bolster the addition of a refined approach to population affinity estimation using craniometric data.”