Introduction to Forensic Anthropology

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Forensic anthropology is the application of the science of physical anthropology to the legal process. - American Board Of Forensic Anthropology (revised 9/15/05)

Forensic anthropologists help to identify badly decayed or skeletal human remains by determining age, ancestry, sex, stature, and in rare cases occupation. They are often called upon to assist the police department, the county coroner's office, medical examiner's office, homicide detectives from the local police department, or field archaeologists investigating a burial site.

Terminology[edit]

Anatomical position - Standing erect with the palms facing forward

Anterior - The front of the body or situated near the front of the body

Coronal plane - Vertical plane running through the body that divides it into more or less equal front and back halves

Distal - Away from the point of attachment to the trunk or the centre of the body. Used especially to denote parts of limbs.

Inferior (caudal) - Toward the soles of the feet

Palmar - Direction the palms are facing, however they may be oriented (forward in anatomical position)

Plantar - Direction the soles of the feet are facing, however they may be oriented (inferior in anatomical position)

Proximal - Nearer the centre of the body or away from the point of attachment to the trunk. Used especially to denote parts of limbs.

Posterior - The back of the body or situated near the back of the body

Sagittal plane - Vertical plane running through the body that divides it into more or less equal right and left halves

Superior (cranial) - Toward the crown of the head

Transverse plane - Horizontal plane (at right angles to the sagittal and coronal) that divides the body into more or less equal upper and lower halves

Features Of A Bone[edit]

Condyle - A knuckle-like prominence at the end of a bone, usually where it connects to another bone

Diaphysis - The shaft or central section of a long bone.

Epiphysis - Growing end of a long bone. it is separated by a cartilage from the shaft of the bone.

Foramen - A hole in the bone that allows for the passage of veins and/or nerves into and out of the bone

Fossa - A more or less circular depression in the bone

Sinus - An air space in the bone

Methods used[edit]

Examination of Skeletal Remains[edit]

Human bones - The bones should be sorted out into Human and Non Human bones.

Determination of Age - The appearance and union of centres of bone growth and changes in bones and teeth helps the investigator in determining the age of the individual at the time of death.

Determination of Sex - The adult skeleton has several morphological differences between the sexes which are used to determine the sex of the individual.

Determination of Race - Although race is not biological, bones have morphological characteristics which are confined to individuals of a particular race.

Height - The height of the individual can be calculated with reasonable accuracy by applying formulae to the length of individual bones, especially the long bones of limbs.

Duration of interment -