Forensic Anthropology is an example of applied anthropology where anthropological methods and theories are utilized to solve contemporary human problems. The forensic anthropologist, a highly specialized physical anthropologist, is an expert in the analysis and identification of human remains. He or she very often also has training in crime scene investigation, toxicology and human anatomy
Using anthropological techniques, these professionals can determine with a great degree of accuracy, the ethnicity, sex, and cause of death based on an examination of skeletal remains. The forensic anthropologist can also determine the approximate time of death and the state of health at the time of death.
When law enforcement officials are faced with remains which are in such an advanced state of ...view middle of the document...
The bones and teeth are then carefully examined for evidence of the victim’s age. This information can usually be derived from factors such as dental wear, and degeneration in the bones of the spine. The condition of the bones and teeth are carefully noted and photographed. Any evidence of previous injury or dental work is used for comparison with dental and medical records of missing persons.
Evidence such as the appearance of soft tissue, insect activity and the growth of plant roots will provide clues as to the time of death.
If all this fails to identify the remains, the police may ask the anthropologist to perform a facial “reconstruction”. The anthropologist may work in close conjunction with a specialized technician and police sketch artist to attempt to reconstruct he facial features of the victim based on the structure of the facial bones.
While it is usually the responsibility of police coroners and pathologist to determine the cause of death, forensic psychologists may pick up clues which could assist in this regard. For example, multiple cut marks on the ribs may indicate that the person was stabbed several times. Damage to the skull may indicate blunt force trauma to the head. The position of bones and the nature of damage could suggest whether the victim died as a result of a fall or from gunshot wounds etc.
Some police departments employ specially trained forensic anthropologists. Others solicit help from the anthropologists at universities or museums. At any rate, forensic anthropology has proven to be an invaluable tool in the fight against crime. Many families have been afforded closure when badly decomposed remains were identified or evidence leading to the capture and conviction of murderers has been unearthed by anthropologists.