Forensic Anthropology


Forensic anthropology refers to the application of science of Physical anthropology to legal processes. It also involves the application of human osteology to legal process. Forensic anthropology is mostly applied in criminal cases where the remains of the victim of a crime are in advanced stage of decomposition. Forensic anthropology is also used in other situations like medicine to identifying a decomposed body of a deceased person. It also used to identify burned bodies, and also mutilated bodies. Thus, forensic anthropology is important in every day life. This paper analyzes what is forensic anthropology, its uses, and how it is applied in different fields.

Forensic anthropology

Forensic anthropology involves the application of physical anthropology to legal process. Physical anthropology is a branch of anthropology that involves the study of primate fossils in history (Thomas 2003). It compares the primate fossils, and also contrasts them. Physical anthropology studies why some traits disappeared, and why they disappeared. In addition, physical anthropology studies how environmental factors and resources have affected the primate fossils. The branch analyzes how species disappeared, and how they diverged from each other during evolution (Thomas 2003). Forensic anthropologists are said to be bone detectives who help law agencies and medical examiners solve complex cases which involve unidentified human remains. Forensic anthropologists use the techniques used by physical anthropologists to identify human skeletons. Physical anthropologists used various techniques to establish information about early human beings using their skeletons. The same techniques are employed in forensic anthropology to identify people who have been involved in fire accidents, war, plane crash and murder (Thomas 2003).

 Importance and application of forensic anthropology in different fields.

Forensic anthropology is important as it is used in different field like law and medicine to provide information. Forensic anthropologists use physical anthropology techniques to study the remains of a victim of a crime. They also analyze burned bodies, and mutilated bodies. Forensic anthropologists use scientific techniques to help in recovering remains, analyzing age and sex of the deceased. They also use the forensic techniques to analyze the trauma the deceased person underwent, or the disease (Thomas 2003).

 Forensic anthropologists work with different people when analyzing the bodies. For example, forensic anthropologists work together with forensic pathologists, and deontologists to identify bodies, and get evidence of a trauma. They also help the forensic pathologists in determining the postmortem interval. Forensic anthropologists are not allowed by the law to state the cause of death after discovering the information. They work together with the medical examiners to identify the cause. The medical examiner considers the views of forensic anthropologists when making decisions. The identification of skeletal, badly decomposed bodies or unidentified human remains is important for both legal reasons and humanitarian reasons (Thomas 2003). In addition to identifying human remains and assisting in court, forensic anthropologists assist in identifying the age, sex and ancestry of the deceased person. They also help in suggesting the unique features of the decedent from the skeleton. For example, after the September 11 attack, forensic anthropologists were requested to help in identifying the fragments of bones and teeth. This was important for both medical practitioners, and the community. This is because the process would help in determining the deceased people (Thomas 2003).

Forensic anthropologists also help in establishing the sex, age and weight of the deceased person. First the forensic anthropology has to establish if the bones are human, and then carry out other investigations like the age and the sex. A forensic anthropologist can tell more about a person by analyzing the bones. They can determine the sex of the deceased person using bones. This helps determine whether the deceased person is a male or female. The forensic anthropologists study the pelvic bones, and the base of the skull to determine the characteristics of the person. Also, they study the fore head and the jaws to determine the sex of the skeleton. For example, males have a more prominent brow ridge and jaws. The eye socket for males differs with that of the female. The eye socket for males is prominent. If the skeleton has the above characteristics then the skeleton is said to be male. Women have a wider pelvis than men and this helps the forensic anthropologists determine the sex of the female victim (Thomas 2003).

Forensic anthropologists examine the age of the person using the joints, bones and teeth. They examine the three parts to determine the age of the person. For example, a skull of a child has more separation between the bones than the skull for an adult. If the skull is smooth, then the person is said to be an adult (Thomas 2003).

Forensic anthropologists examine the wrist of a young child to determine the age of the child. The use of bones to determine the age is effective if the person is aged below 30 years. In addition, the anthropologists determine the height of a person using the length of the arm bones, and leg bones. The weight is determined by the wear on the bones. They are able to determine the time the person died using the soft tissues remaining in the body. This information is important for legal agencies, medical examiners, and other people. Doctors use information collected by the forensic anthropologists to write medical reports about the deceased person. Forensic anthropologists are also useful in the court as they are allowed to testify in court as expert witnesses. The forensic anthropologists use the information he has colleted to testify in the court. This is because he has enough information about the deceased person and the crime to testify (Thomas 2003).

Forensic anthropologists help police in carrying out facial reconstructions to identify the deceased. They fix the various components of the face well to help construct a face for the deceased person. This helps in crime investigation (Thomas 2003).

Forensic anthropology helps in determine the postmortem interval. Post mortem interval refers to the time that has elapsed after the person died. If the post mortem interval is not known, scientific techniques are used to determine the time. These techniques are mostly carried out by forensic anthropologists (Thomas 2003). Anthropologists’ methods are used to rebuild events that happened after the death, and estimate the post mortem interval. The post mortem interval is estimated using the condition of the remains and the conditions the body was discovered in. Estimates provided by the forensic anthropologists provide a general time line as decomposition of the body takes different patterns depending on the kind of weather. Post mortem interval is important in medical field as it helps doctors get the right information concerning the deceased person. It also used in legal agencies to analyze crimes (Thomas 2003).

Forensic anthropologist help determine the kind of trauma the person underwent. They carry out skeletal trauma analysis by interpreting sharp, and gunshots. They also interpret post mortem damage and blunt trauma (Thomas 2003). The forensic anthropologists record the location of trauma so as to provide enough information about the trauma. Most fields and organizations like medicine, and law agencies consult anthropologists to determine the presence of trauma in a skeleton, and the type of trauma. They also help determine the occurrence of gun shots and the direction of the force of the gun shot, and the impact of the trauma. Anthropologists do not determine the cause of death, but the medical practitioners use the findings provided by the anthropologists to determine the cause of death (Thomas 2003). 2003).


Forensic anthropology is important as it helps provide important information in many fields. It is used in legal agencies to identify crimes, and carry out crime investigation. This is because forensic anthropologists provide crucial information about the deceased like the cause of the death, and the person who carried out the crime. In addition, forensic anthropology is used in medicinal field to analyze the body of a deceased person, and to identify the post mortem interval. It helps in identifying deceased bodies in fire sites, and plane crash. Forensic anthropologists can testify in court as they have enough information to act as evidence in the court. They provide many details about the deceased person like the age, height, and sex. Forensic anthropology is applied in many fields like medicine and law. It is used by medical examiners to provide medical reports for the deceased.


Thomas, Peggy. Forensic anthropology: the growing science of talking bones. Facts on File, 2003


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