Forensic anthropology is the study of human remains, where the anthropologist records the sex, age, height, and clues to ancestry. The word “forensic” means to involve science into legal or criminal matters. Forensic anthropologists work with law enforcements to identify human remains or bones in a crime scene; however some may also investigate ancient human remains in order to solve mysteries. Forensic anthropology is actually a blend of the methods and theories of anthropology, astrology and archaeology and combining it with legal investigations.
The first anthropologist to be considered a forensic expert in the US was a man named George Dorset, who testified for the prosecution in the famous Chicago Letters Case. Forensic anthropology is by some professionals considered a subfield of Physical Anthropology. Anthropologist Clyde Collins Snow said, I have defined forensic anthropology as the application of the physical anthropologist’s specialized knowledge of human sexual, racial, age and individual variation to the problems of medical Jurisprudence” (Forensic Anthropology pig. 28). Forensic anthropologists are often called forensic scientist or crime scene technicians; however this wouldn’t be appropriate because forensic Anthropologists only deal with human remains. There are many ways forensic anthropologist determine the various features that lead to the identification of the victim. I am going to discuss some of those ways, including species, age and facial recognition. Once bones are found, the anthropologist must determine the species. When bones are discovered 30% of the time they are not human remains.
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If the larger bones, such as the skull are present it makes it much easier for the anthropologist to determine if it is human or not. However smaller bones are much more difficult to determine, and take a great amount of knowledge and experience for the expert to truly establish the species. The investigation of these bones will continue until it is certain they are nonhuman which could take a considerable amount of time. There are two different types of age anthropologist look for, the age of the actual remains and the age of the victim upon death.
When the remains are actually discovered they could possibly be connected to a current criminal investigation, or they could be prehistoric remains and may or may not be related to any mysteries. If NY artifacts are found buried with the remnants such as coffin remains, they can help determine if the human remains are historic. There are a few methods to use when finding out the age of bones, one of those methods is called Carbon Dating. The way carbon dating works is once the individual dies it stops taking in new carbon.
The proportion of carbon-12 to carbon-14 the moment someone dies is the same as in someone living; however the carbon-14 decays and will not be replaced once the person is dead. The ratios of the sample can be compared to the ratios of a living person and make it possible to determine the age of the remains. Finding out the age of the victim upon death is a very important part of the identification process. It is possible to correctly estimate the age of the victim by studying the way the bones look.
A process known as ossification takes place as a person ages; during this process their bones fuse together and structures are formed in between them. The fusion of certain bones usually happens when a person is a certain age; this helps the anthropologist determine the age of the person by the appearance of their bones. Forensic Anthropologist can also study the victim’s teeth, especially in younger individuals; for example the lack of wisdom teeth suggests the victim is under age 18. Sometimes it is difficult to determine the identification of a victim without facial recognition being done.
Facial recognition is the process where the face of an individual is built upon the skull, usually done with clay. There are certain rules applied to this process to make sure these features will be as accurate as possible. Any remaining tissue on the skull is removed, and then many round, rubber marks are put on specific areas of the skull and are used to show the depth of flesh in those locations. Strips of clay are then placed on these landmarks with more clay applied in between to act as “flesh” of the face. Facial muscles are then applied over the flesh, followed by external features such as eyes, ears, nose, etc.
Lastly the style of hair and color of the skin and hair are applied. This clay model may not be exactly the way the person looks or be able to be the only identifier; however when the image is shown to the public there is hope that someone will come forward and be able to make an identification of the victim. Unfortunately in most cases the results of the facial cognition is inadmissible in a court of law. Determining the Species, Age and doing facial recognitions are only a few of the many things a Forensic Anthropologist does.
They will also determine the sex, Ethnicity, Stature, weight, DNA and other individual differences of the victim. They will look at any injuries the victim may have and try to determine the cause of death, whether it was homicide, suicide or a natural cause. Forensic Anthropologist can provide very useful information to investigators and can solve a lot of mysteries; however the Job can be gruesome and not recommended for the faint of heart. I really enjoyed doing the research on this topic. I have always been interested in forensic science, and a forensic anthropologist sounds like a great Job.