Forensic anthropology

Forensic anthropology

Forensic anthropology is the application of the science of physical anthropology and human osteology (the study of the human skeleton) in a legal setting, most often in criminal cases where the victim's remains are more or less skeletonized. A forensic anthropologist can also assist in the identification of deceased individuals whose remains are decomposed, burned, mutilated or otherwise unrecognizable. The adjective "forensic" refers to the application of this subfield of science to a court of law.


Forensic anthropology borrows methods developed from the academic discipline of physical anthropology and applies them to cases of forensic importance. These techniques can be used to assess age, sex, stature, ancestry, and analyze trauma and disease. Forensic anthropologists frequently work in conjunction with forensic pathologists, odontologists, and homicide investigators to identify a decedent, discover evidence of trauma, and determine the postmortem interval. Though they typically lack the legal authority to declare the official cause of death, their opinions may be taken into consideration by the medical examiner. They may also testify in court as expert witness, though data from some of the techniques commonly used in the field—such as forensic facial reconstruction—are inadmissible as forensic evidence.

In the United States

Physical anthropology is one of the divisions of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Two of the most important research collections of human skeletal remains in the U.S. are the Hamann-Todd Collection, now housed in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Terry Collection, now housed in the Smithsonian Institution. These collections are an important historic basis for the statistical analysis necessary to make estimates and predictions from found remains. More modern collections include the William M. Bass Donated Skeletal Collection at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.


There are few people who identify themselves as forensic anthropologists, and in the United States and Canada, there are fewer than 100 Anthropologists certified as Diplomates of the American Board of Forensic Anthropology(DABFA). Most diplomates work in the academic field and consult on casework as it arises.

Notable forensic anthropologists

See also


External links

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