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Forensic Anthropology What is forensic anthropology? Forensic anthropology is the identification of skeletal, badly decomposed, or otherwise unidentified human ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Forensic%20Anthropology

Forensic Anthropology
What is forensic anthropology?
  • Forensic anthropology is the identification of
    skeletal, badly decomposed, or otherwise
    unidentified human remains
  • Forensic anthropologists frequently work in
    conjunction with forensic pathologists,
    odontologists, and homicide investigators to
    identify a decedent, discover evidence of foul
    play, and/or the postmortem interval.

Why study bones?
  • bones often survive the process of decay and
    provide the main evidence for the human form
    after death

What information can a forensic anthropologist
provide about the deceased?
  • forensic anthropologists work to suggest the age,
    sex, ancestry, stature, and unique features of a
    decedent from the skeleton
  • When skeletalized remains are discovered, one
    needs to establish first if the bones are human
  • They can also in certain cases determine the
    cause of death

Employment as a Forensic Anthropologist
  • Employment as a Forensic Anthropologist is as
    varied as there are crimes, people and places
  • After the attacks on September 11, 2001, Forensic
    Anthropologists were deployed to a base in
    Delaware to begin the tedious process of
    identifying bone fragments and teeth.
  • They may be called upon to identify bones and
    bone fragments sitting in boxes in universities
    and museums.

The Human Skeleton
Determining Sex and Race
Male Female
Size Large Small
Architecture Rugged Smooth
Palate Larger, Broader, U-Shaped Small, tends to be a parabola
Supraorbital Margin Rounded Sharp
Mstoid aProcess Large Small

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Determining Age
  • The best bet in determining the age of a
    sub-adult skeleton is examination of the teeth
    and jaw, when present.

Calculating Height and Weight
  •  Stature            3.26 x (humerus) 62.10
    stature /- 4.43cm            3.42 x
    (radius) 81.56 stature /-4.30            3.2
    6 x (ulna) 78.29 stature /-4.42   
  • Weight            Wt (in lbs) 4.4 x (stature
    in inches) - 143    

Estimating Time of Death
  • The first question to be asked and probably the
    most difficult to answer is "how long has it been
  • Bones do not decay as skin and soft tissue do,
    but they are subject to weathering and scatter
  • Animal scattering of bones can destroy the
    context of the crime scene and gnaw marks destroy
    actual bone
  • If a body is buried, insects cannot get at it,
    but micro-organisms can. The acidity of soil will
    have an effect on bone.

Time of Death Continued
  • Condition of bone depends on the type of burial
    or exposure along with temperature.
  • When a body is left on the surface, insect
    activity will begin immediately and within 2
    weeks the body will be partially skeletalized,
    completely skeletalized within 8 months.
  • If buried, it will take between 1 and 2 years to
    become completely skeletalized and in arid areas
    may become mummified.
  • The number and types of bones available at the
    scene indicates the amount of time the body has
    been in that spot, i.e. smaller bones get lost

Manner and Cause of Death
  • Manner of death refers to the 5 possibilities
    homicide, suicide, accidental, natural and
  • Cause of death refers to injury or disease, or
    combination, that results in death and could take
  • Determining the cause of death is easier with a
    fleshed body and very difficult with the flesh
    and organs gone.
  • Taking X-rays of the skeletal material is very
  • Damage from metal objects leaves fragmented metal
    or metal shavings and saw tooth shavings will
    show up bright white on X-ray. Bullets will leave
    fragments of lead.

Types of Fractures
Type of Fracture Characteristics
Complete broken all the way through
Incomplete crack not all the way
Comminuted piece not with the bone
Linear pressure on skull, stress released by cracking soft blunt weapon
Stellate star-shaped piece missing hard blunt weapon
Depressed usually with stellate, piece pressed in hard blunt object, sometimes sharp weapon
Broken Hyoid if not adult, not fused may indicate strangulation
Timing near cracks do not cross prior cracks indicate order of attack