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Anthropology: The study of mankind in all aspects eg. evolution, biological,
physical, sociocultural practices, activity patterns, languages, etc.
Forensic: The application of principles and knowledge of medical sciences in
the administration of legal matters
Forensic Anthropology: The branch of physical anthropology & human
osteology which for forensic purposes deals with the identification of more or less
skeletonised remains known to be or suspected to be human
Main purpose:I.
elimination of non-human elements
doing the identification process (sex, age, race, stature and individual
ascertain cause and manner of death (violent or natural causes)
Palaeopathology: A branch of the skeletal biological study / investigation into
ancient health and disease

Information regarding origin & evolution of certain disease is available

through Ix. of ancient remains
When a representative population sample is available, analysis of skeletal
pathology can provide estimates of community health status & Ix. into
disease patterning

Archaeology: Study of ancient cultures and ways of life

Search, recovery and excavation (archaeologist are expert diggers!)

Analysis of physical remnants / materials eg. Tools, pottery, weapons,
buried objects, soil particles, adornments, clothing attire, etc
Analysis of burial sites
Use of geophysic method to locate burial site / cemetery eg. Magnometry,
Ground Penetrating Radar

Human taphonomy: Postmortem changes / changes after death

Basically the study of human remains after death sets in eg. decaying
process, skeletalisation
Body Farm Anthropology Research Centre at University of Knoxville,
Tennessee, US; idea mooted by Dr. William Bass
Taphonomic changes can be due to weathering, discolouration, polish,
cutmarks, carnivore or herbivore gnawing, cultural modifications / creation
of artefacts

Skeletalisation: Human remains skeletonised to the bare bones

The terminal stage of a decomposition process prior to complete

disintegration / degradation
Generally takes about a year for complete skeletonisation to take place
(rule of thumb)
May be hastened by warm and humid climate
Delayed in freezing conditions

Human Skeleton
Human adult skeleton on average has 206 bones, but number often varies
due to presence of supernumerary bones
Fetal and subadult skeleton have > 300 bones
Axial skeleton skull, vertebrae, scapula, ribs, clavicle, sternum and pelvis
Appendicular skeleton bones of the arms and legs
Compact bone = cortical bone
Cancellous bone = spongy bone = lamellar bone
Living & Non-Living Bone
Living bone made up of mostly inorganic components (calcium,
phosphorus, magnesium & small amounts of iron, sodium & potassium)
and organic substances (collagen fibres)
Known for its hardness, resilience, elasticity & flexibility
Non-living bones composed largely of hard inorganic components allowing
it to survive long after the decay of soft tissues, however, more brittle &
susceptible to breakage due to loss of its elastic organic properties
Types Of Bones
Long bones femur, tibia, fibula, humerus, radius, ulna
Short bones metacarpal, metatarsal, phalanx, clavicle
Flat bones cranium (frontal, parietal, temporal, occipital bones), scapula,
sternum, ribs
Irregular bones vertebrae, os coxa (ilium, ischium & pubic), facial bones,
carpal bones, tarsal bones
Functions Of The Skeleton
o The skeletal system supports or holds-up the body
o The skeletal systems protects soft tissues & vital organs
o Provides the levers and surfaces for attachments of muscles, ligaments &
o Provides source of red blood cell production & reserve of minerals such as
calcium & phosphorus
o Removes toxins & heavy metals such as lead and arsenic from the
Modes Of Anthropological Examination Includes:
Place/scene of discovery
Burial / exhumation site
Materials associated at burial site
Morphology / osteological examination
Anthropometric measurements
Biochemical & microstructural studies, DNA profiling
Anthropometric Instruments


Is it bone?
Is it human or non-human?
Is it forensic or archaeological?
Minimum number of individuals (MNI) single or multiple individuals
General or Biological identification?
Personal or Individual identification?
Existence of illness/diseases which affect bony structures or healed
Cause and manner of death?

Human vs Non-Human Bone

Human infant long bones can be mistaken for small animal bones such as
chicken, fox, coyote
Bones of the hands & feet (metacarpals, metatarsals, phalanges) can be
mistaken with a bears paw
Human dentition can be mistaken with pigs teeth
Distinctive aspects between human and non-human based on the maturity
and architectural appearance / anatomical shape of bones
Forensic or Archaeological
Important to do dating of the bones usually via carbon-dating (C14)
Forensic importance if postmortem interval / time of death is less than 70
Medicolegal investigations can still be initiated as suspects and/or
witnesses could still be available
Archaeological nature if age of the bones or osseous elements more than
70 years eg. Few hundred years or thousand years as in Bronze Age, Iron
Age, Roman, Saxon, Medieval times
Minimum Number of Individual (MNI)
Is it a single skeleton or consist of multiple individual skeletons
Is it intermixed with non-human bones
Is the skeleton complete or with some bones missing (use inventory
Is the bone intact or injured
To differentiate human bones via anthropological, radiological &
microscopic examination, DNA & protein study
General / Biological Identity
Sex determination
Age estimation
Race affiliation

Stature approximation

* give probabilities and standards of error (error margin) in order to be more

objective and scientific in your factual estimates
Sex Determination
Male or female
Being able to determine the sex of a skeleton helps to eliminate 50% of
the individuals in the population
Difficult to do sexing in true hermaphrodites
Asian adult male may have features similar to European adult female
Gender is how the society relates to a person whereas sex is what the
biological / anatomical features are of a body or skeleton
Os coxa morphology/ Innominate bone ventral arc, subpubic concavity,
ischiopubic ramus ridge, greater sciatic notch & pre-auricular sulcus
(Phenice technique)
Robusticity of the bones and muscle attachment sites
Cranial morphology nuchal crest, mastoid process, supraorbital margin,
prominence of glabella & mental eminence (Acsadi and Nemeskeri 1970)
Can use anthropometric measurements of long bones
Metric measurements of the manubrio-sternum & scapula
Age Estimation
Important to do ageing of the bones to establish age of individual at time
of death
Chronological age is based on records whereas biological age is based on
the morphology of bones
Cranial suture closure
Sternal rib end appearance
Epiphyseal fusion of long bones
Centres of ossification in long bones
Todd pubic symphysis faces scoring system
Suchey-Brooks pubic symphysis scoring system
Meindl & Lovejoy auricular surface (ilium) scoring system
Ageing Categories
fetus - < 40 weeks
Neonate birth to 1 month old
Infant 1 month to 12 months
Juvenile 1 1 to 4 years
Juvenile 2 5 to 8 years
Juvenile 3 9 to 12 years

Adolescent 13 to 17 years
Young adult 18 to 25 years
Young middle adult 26 to 35
Old middle adult 36 to 45
Mature adult 46 years &

Racial Affiliation
Based mainly on the morphological features of the skull and to a certain
extent the dentition
Can use anthropometric measurements of skull & long bones @ FORDISC
software programme

Race is what the community of a population perceives a person as from their

socio-cultural background
Better to categorize according to ancestral inheritance or regional
Problems with inter-marriages and migration

High cheekbones
Bradycephalicshaped skull

Narrow nasal
aperture with sharp
nasal sill in skulls
Tented / acutely
angled nasal bone in
Receding chin in
Caucasoid skulls

Prognathism in
Broad sized face

Stature Approximation
Stature calculations based on formulae derived from the measurements of
long bones eg. The modified Trotter & Glesser method, Dupertuis Haden
method, regression formula
FORDISC programme based on database collected from war-acquired
skeletal collection, museum skeletal archives & dissecting room cadavers
from university hospitals
Long bone most reliable for stature estimation are the lower limb bones
eg. Femur, tibia & fibula
Forensic stature is based on the height of a person during life and ID
records whereas biological stature is based on the measurement of bones
Other bones used for stature estimation vertebra, metacarpal
Individual / Personal Identity (Individuation)
Basis of definitive identification compare & match
Facial reconstruction - Photo-fit, portrait sketching, clay modeling, 3D
digital reconstruction
Radiological examination sinus comparisons, trabeculation / rarefaction
of bones, video or photo - skull superimposition
Odontological examination dental charts, dental x-rays
DNA profiling nuclear or mitochondrial material using PCR or STR, VNTR
and RFLP methods
Dental Methods for Identification
Dental charting- characteristic, teeth arrangement, pathological,

Unique especially when there are more treatment artefacts

Established major criteria in identification
Also can be use in estimation of age & minor exclusion for race
Setbacks - teeth need good antemortem data
o more treatment after charting
o milk teeth -permanent
Dental chart comparison- ante and post mortem
Dental implants
Dental radiology- Dental radiograph from the antemortem records can
be matched with the postmortem radiographs of the individual for positive
identification of the individual


DNA Serology Comparison

Unique in a family
Established major criteria in identification
Provides definitive and confirmatory result
Principle - to compare the DNA at various loci between the person and
the suspected parents base on Mendelian principle
- sample disintegrate over time
- unable to differentiate between identical twins
- siblings not suitable
- requires 2 samples from different generations for conclusive result
- requires expert analysis
- time-consuming
- costly

Disease/Pathology Affecting Bones

Infections resulting in gangrenous limb bones
Osteomyelitis: Infection of bone causing distortion of bone architecture
with formation of sinuses and fistulas
Metabolic/Endocrine eg. Hypothyrodism, hypopituitarism, cretinism,
scurvy, ricketts
Tumours eg. pituitary tumours
Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis
Degenerative disease eg. Osteoarthritis
Cultural/Habitual practices
Healing/healed fractures or lesions

Types of object/weapon eg. Sharp, heavy, serrated, blunt, hard, pointed
Types of trauma blunt trauma, sharp trauma, projectile-induced trauma

Blunt Trauma - Healed Fractures Sharp Trauma


Figure 1- Callous formation

seen around # site

Figure 2- cleft wound defect

of scapula from pointed
sharp end of weapon

Figure 3- Gunshot wound

Blast-related Trauma

Burnt and Charred

Skeletal Remains

General identification
Individual identification (if
Nature of injury
infliction/disease pathology
Cause of death
Manner of death

*to be supported by factual

evidence from journal articles,
case studies/case reports,
research, etc
**to include bibliography in
the skeletal report