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The Science of Forensic Anthropology


Question : Write a scholarly paper critically evaluating the role and impact Forensic Anthropology has on death investigations. In addition to summarizing the science of Forensic Anthropology, examples of criminal cases that hinged on the science of Forensic Anthropology should be used.

Answer :


The present report outlines the science of forensic anthropology. The specific responsibility associated with a forensic anthropologist in context to death case investigation has been described in the paper. The forensic anthropologist deals with law enforcement for collecting human remains in the crime scene. With a detailed analysis of the human remains, it is able to analyse the biological profile, type and extent of injuries, and also estimates the exact time of death. Further, regulatory frameworks which is to be accounted for the procedural requirements during the case investigation have been explained.


In today's world, the role of a forensic anthropologist in that investigation, please a crucial role. The specifics of forensic science as a rule in this consideration is linked with the application of scientific techniques, modern in instrumentation, biophysical aspects, and clinical pieces of evidence were combined together for interdisciplinary outcome in criminal cases. Overall, the prime intention of a forensic anthropologist is to examine the remaining of the crime scene, develop and linking of biological profile, appropriate documentation, and testifying the conduct according to the local and national legislation (Steadman, 2015). Thus, it would be appropriate to state that their knowledge of the human body can contribute to the death investigation, in the form of expert opinion and conclusion, which direct the outcome of any such case.

Scope of the present report

The above section briefly highlights the importance of forensic anthropologist within the scope of solving get cases. In the present report, the focus is on the role and impact of a forensic anthropologist, within the scope of resolving clues, linking with biological and situational profile, documenting, and preparing a testimony. In order to illustrate the concept in details, the inclusion of death cases was also included in this report.

What are the responsibilities of forensic anthropologist

A forensic anthropologist is primarily concerned to work with human remains, few of them are trained in the technique of evidence collection. their primary job is to assist law enforcement in the specific location for the recovery of human remains at the crime scene. Further, they clean the bones of the collected human remains for a detailed analysis. In this context, the analyse the skeletal remains to identify the biological profile of the specific individual.

The range of training and expertise is gained by a forensic anthropologist, is certainly in broad areas. These knowledge areas include anthropology, anatomy, human physiology, pathology, archaeology, and trauma-related analysis. As a detailed by the report of Blau, (2015), incompetent forensic anthropologist used to work in a methodological way, which comprises of series of questions that must be answered, in order to conclude for death cases. Some of the examples from such questionnaire set include, (i) are the scattered and remaining material bone? (ii) do they belong to single individual or remainings of many? (iii) what are the sex, age, and peculiar identification of the subject? (iv) can decedent be identified on the basis of race, body weight, physique, and stature? (v) are there any identifiable anatomical abnormalities, the sign of chronic illness, injury, or unique identification of the decedent? (vi) what could be the cause of death? (vii) what could be the manner of death? (Crowder, Wiersema, Adams, Austin, & Love, 2016). However, it is important to note that the set of questions are not limited to the one described here, but the overall objective is to identify the decedent and resolve the mystery of death investigation.

In today's investigation, the role of forensic anthropologist has gone far beyond skeletonized remaining and identification of scattered material. However, their training in surveying and archaeological analysis ‏begins with the recovery of the decedent, shifting the recovered material to the lab, and perform taphonomic analysis. The details of these terminologies and associated     framework ‏will be discussed in the preceding section of this report. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the extensive training in the field of recovery and concurrent analysis allows anthropologists to figure the location, determine additional search material, and record the potential identifications. Thus, it would be appropriate to state that for those cases in which anthropological recovery is not possible (probably due to lack of specialist), the overall recovery process remains incomplete. As a result, it impacts the ability to identify the decedent, prepare evidence for the prosecution, and complete the legal procedure, remains inappropriate and improper (Passalacqua, &Pilloud, 2018).

Preparation of scene

The meaning of the given term “scene” in this context refers to the dead event as well as the situation. The role of forensic anthropologist hair is to analyze the location of remainings (buried after death) and connecting the law enforcement by giving expert advice during the investigation. In particular, the responsibility assignment first to perform the on-site identification for discounted materials as well as the human belongings. With this, the anthropologist then proceeds with their search strategy. For example, identifying the anatomical arts, informing the search team about the completeness, and making decisions if the search procedure can be discontinued.


According to the report of Mozayani, & Parish-Fisher (2017), any type of crime he is always considered to be delicate in nature, and they are likely to be contaminated with the environment, down the track of time period. This is primarily important because, the destruction of remainings are subjected to be continued by an animal, perpetrators, natural decaying process, and thus the subject becomes impossible to identify accurately. Thus, in order to preserve the scene, grids are often placed around the event. Furthermore, the materials surrounding area, fibres, artefacts, broken pieces, as well as the breeze of insects we are collected and shifter for excavation by the anthropologist. Based on all the analysis, the application of knowledge will be used in order to link the death with any legislative framework.

Examination of the remainings

The ability of forensic anthropologist mainly lies in the skill to differentiate between human and nonhuman are meanings among the scattered portion. Based on these, they can further perform the taphonomic assessment as well as examine the soft tissues in order to inspect carefully about the issue. Are also, the examination includes differentiation of various tissue types, bone, blood, as well as skin or hair, which can give sufficient clues for the taphonomic assessment. Additionally, they also perform analysis for the decomposition rate, carbon traces, disarticulation, and modification or dispersion of both soft tissues as well as bone. This, in turn, is important as it can help in identifying the relationship between debt and discovery. In modern terminology, far better understanding by non-scientific community, this concept is also known as postmortem analysis, environment reconstruction, and evidence-based identification for the crime (Janaway, &Márquez-Grant, 2017). Thus, with the help of a forensic anthropologist, the minute details associated with the investigation identified and put forward among the interdisciplinary team for concurrent analysis.

Developing and linking “biological profile” with the death investigation

The object is behind developing a biological profile is to make the unknown, deceased, dead individual, into a developed identity. In other words, it means to create a portray about the physical characteristics, on the basis of taphonomic assessment. Important contributing factors in this consideration include determination of sex, age, stature, as well as other specific identities including the skeletal and dental development, for adding into details. In accordance with the report by Brandon, (2018), identification of these criteria are considered to be an important part of competencies of a forensic anthropologist.

Further discussion will be based on some of the important details within the scope of developing biological profile by a forensic anthropologist. First, in order to determine the age of the individual, bone analysis, especially at an ossification centre is useful. Additionally, search analysis also include identification of patterned, age-related changes, the sex-specific pattern of the skeleton, nutritional or hormonal status, attachment of material with the bone (especially in broken or fracture repairment cases), and individual-specific variation. Down the line, once the age factor is ascertained, dental development is subjected for analysis. In this specific consideration, “odontological” identification based on supporting radiographs as well as dental analysis helps in establishing related factors. Similarly, in order to differentiate the sex of the individual, the hip (pelvis region) bone which exhibits sexual dimorphism among the skeletal makeup of male and female is used. Importantly, as discussed by Jr, C., & Boyd, (2018), there are formulas that can be used for concurrent analysis forensic investigation. Furthermore, often hair or tissue samples were also analyzed for identifying DNA profiling as well as for a database matching with the available biometrics of criminals as well as general community members, if available. In particular, the most reliable methods in death investigation include elementary tissues, blood or semen, as well as hair.

Cause of death: conclusive analysis in death investigation

The prime evidence that is presented by a forensic anthropologist to a medical examiner is often considered to be crucial. In particular, the criticality of such information can be realized by the ease of understanding various factors contributed to death, as well as determining the possible cause, within the scope of the investigation. According to Bonicelli, Xhemali, Kranioti, &Zioupos, (2017), majority of forensic anthropologist put forward their concluding remarks by using a common classification system for traumatic events. In this context, factors like sharp forces, gunshots, blunt forces, blockage of the respiratory tract, toxins or poison injection, as well as massive hit are included. Also, it is important to note that, the impact made by any “objective” or “object” ‏help in identifying the trauma class, weapon class, and possibility of accident or poisoning. Also, this evaluation helps the forensic specialist in identifying the wound type forced or brutal interaction, marks of counter-resistance, as well as additional support present in the death cases. For instance, these possibilities are helpful in forced murder, rape, brutal beating, and other possible causes. Overall, it can be learned that such analysis helps a forensic anthropologist in providing a basic framework as well as concluding remote the interdisciplinary team. Later, it can be used as evidence as well as supporting material to link the death event with any possible legal or regulatory implication.

Developing testimony and elements for documentation

It is a matter of fact that, the investigation is subjected to thorough review for the shreds of evidence, as well as subjective analysis of all the obtained proof. This is important in order to render appropriate justification as well as to set a standard remote for the community members against any criminal activities. However, the procedure of legislative action tends to take sufficient delay and this important testimony should be documented appropriately. The said measures of documentation are thus considered as an important competency for a forensic anthropologist. It should be noted that the role of a forensic anthropologist is important in death investigation because of their strong knowledge and expertise in the field. Hence, they are expected to document all the procedures, likely utmost precision adopted, and likely outcomes obtained with the analytical procedures. Importantly, as discussed by Black, Rutty, Hainsworth, & Thomson, (2017), it is highly recommended for the anthropologist to include, (i) full range of anthropological precisions; (ii) exact steps followed in the analytical procedure; (iii) details of any approximation or biases, if used; and (iv) illustrating the use of any supporting evidence from other related discipline, if used. Overall, it is also important to note that, the overall outcome of any debt investigation, is mainly dependent on the witness testimony, that will be developed by the forensic anthropologist. However, any other associated scientist must be neutral during the court hearing. In contrary, it is also essential that the associated scientist must cross-examine the scientific finding made by a forensic anthropologist, subjected to the consideration that they have appropriate qualification and experience for similar responsibilities.


Legal framework associated with the task

The procedural finding help in identifying whether the remaining belong to a human and if so, what would be the possible profiling, that can result resolve the death mystery. however, after performing the analysis and concluding the subject matter, as discussed in the previous context, the anthropologist also has the role of documentation and presenting a for the legal procedure in court. in this consideration, there also exists various established legislative framework that is linked with the process. Some of the important regulations which for instance are important in the United States, include the California environmental quality act, guidelines within the California code of regulations, Title 14, Chapter 3, public resource code within section 5097 and associated content, Forrest practical act, California code of regulation, Chapter 4 and associated content. Likewise, other regulatory measures include government code within section 65351 and associated content, civil code section 815, California executive order, native American archaeological site regulation, and health and safety codes. furthermore, in accordance to the responsibility of biological profiling and linking it with the investigation procedures, if forensic anthropologist must have detailed clinical methods, used resources for analysis, statistical approximation, use of evidence, reference matter from previous similar cases, and use of ideologies are approximation from any other related discipline. These elements must be included in the documented testimony, which later will be evaluated during the court hearing procedures.

Use of modern database

With the technological development, there also appears significant development and advancement that helps the professionals in resolving murder or similar criminal cases. In the same consideration, forensic anthropologist were also making use of bass collected materials as well as forensic data bank. These sources provides clues and references (evidence) that prove to be effective and handy, while resolving tricky or challenging puzzles. As a result of these collected and curated information, the overall accuracy and outcomes of quantitative research have improved to be a significant extent.

Some of the renowned database and peer-reviewed curated sources of information that handful for anthropologist include “Anthropology research facility (ARF - University of Tennessee)”, Forensic Data Bank (FDB), and Bass skeletal collection (BSC). in particular, the ARF contains more than 1,100 case information that comprises of information from 2,600 individuals based on their involvement in cases or as descendant (Passalacqua, &Pilloud, 2018). Likewise, FDB includes information related to age, sex, weight, birth and nationality, as well as medical history in relevance to the demographic information. On the other hand, BSC includes skeletal remains and related information from more than 600 individuals that are relevant to one or more death (or criminal) cases (Garvin, Klales, &Furnier, 2018). However, FBD comprises of the most updated information from actual forensic case and thus is highly relevant for American cases, particularly in death investigations (Wiersema, 2016). Hence, it would be appropriate to state that careful consideration and funding has been provided to the developers for making up-dated information, and query mechanism for identifying relevant evidence in conjunction with varieties of cases.

Evolution of forensic taphonomy

In conjunction to the key competency level, which are expected from forensic anthropologist, taphonomy analysis and expertise in the relevant methodology is considered as one of the most crucial skills. This include analysing skeletal remains, scene investigation in customary manner, using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for genetic analysis, pathological investigation, blood sample analysis, and contamination of identified debris. However, important methodologies that are covered within the scope of taphonomy are not limited to the described modules. According to the report of Wescott (2018), taphonomy origins from the branch of paleontology and is mainly concerned with the linking of human beings with the surrounding environment. Thus, such analysis covers the scope of contamination, genetic analysis, physical architecture and unique qualities, as well as pathological investigation, for the purpose of identifying clues. Importantly, in the present day practice by forensic anthropologist, the adopted methodologies for the investigation of death cases are not limited to the traditional method of skeletal analysis. Rather, the used methods are more of interdisciplinary in nature and aims to develop a complete biological profile. In this manner, the role of anthropologist is highly relevant for the investigation of death cases.


In summary, the president report explicitly discusses the rules and responsibilities of a forensic anthropologist, in conjunction with death case investigation. As a matter of fact, the expertise and knowledge of anthropologist in resolving criminal investigations are of high importance. The scope of responsibilities in this consideration is linked with preparation of the scene, examining the remaining, developing the biological profile, identifying the cause of death, and finally developing a testimony or document. However, there also exist regulatory frameworks that should be accounted for the procedural requirements based on the concurrent analysis, the role and importance of forensic anthropologist in death investigation have been clear. It is believed that the information present in this report will be useful in differentiating the responsibilities, competency level, and skill of forensic anthropologist in the requisite investigation cases.


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