ANTH 1120 2014 Lecture Outline
Week 9 – Forensic anthropology and paleopathology
TEST: Weeks 7-9 lectures and reading
not on test: week 1-5 details about the mechanisms of adaptation to high altitudes or very cold
format multiple choice and short answers
Forensic anthropology: Refers to the use of anthropological techniques to aid in the identification of
recent remains, and assist in legal issues.
- What are these anthropological techniques?
o The excavation of remains
o The use of morphological traits to help identify remains
- The importance of understanding osteology and skeletal changes and differences
- Includes: Helping to determine characteristics of individuals (aid in identification) even when
remains are damaged (damaged on what ways? animals, broken
- Helping to determine minimum number of individuals (MNI) and sorting commingled
remains(When might this happen?
- Determining postmortem interval(how long the person has been dead)
- Remember: remains are often not whole (Examples? Pickten Pig Farm: tiny fragments that had
gone through the digestive system of the pigs. 27 sets of remains)
- Must have a clear and detailed understanding of the human skeleton (what it looks like have it
- Microscopic and macroscopic (=osteology)
- Human remains: may include soft tissues.
- Soft tissues much be removes before anthropologist can work with bones (generally via boiling)
to remove contaminated with diseases or viruses therefore boiling gets rid of this but keeps the
integrity of the remains.
- Mummification can occur quickly but it depends of where the body is placed.
- Old bones that are archaeological in nature are very dry
*** Steps in determining what it is goes in the following order***
Human versus non-human animal remains
- Must know differences
- comparison, practice
What do forensic anthropologists do?
- Assess whether remains are human; whether one individual or commingled
- Construct a biological profile
o Age at death
o Body size (stature) How tall the individual was.
▯1 o Unique individual features
- Can we say anything about cause of death?
- We do it in this order because there are groups that we can being to classify the individual in
based on the steps
- Counting bones: Cant assume its only one individual
- mass graves particularly complex
- Note: some bones (especially small ones ex fingers, toes) might be missing
- Skeletal inventory check list (set bones on a table once you get a double you put it on the next
Differences in Humsn Development
- Bones and
- population background
Age at death: Two categories: subadults and adults
- Subadults – juvenile, not yet fully mature.
o Two major ways: Ossification of the bones, and eruption of the teeth
▪ Long bones (major bones of the arms and legs) have primary and secondary sites
▪ Ossification: the process of forming bone, rather than cartilage
▪ These sites of ossification can be broken down into the diaphyses – the long parts
of the bone; and the epiphyses – the caps at either end.
▪ Long bones grow to our adult length by depositing new bone at each end, under
the caps of the epiphyses.
▪ The epiphyses eventually fuse to the diaphyses(epiphyseal union), and you stop
▪ By understanding the schedule by which this happens, we can estimate the age-at-
death of a subadult(predetermined rate)
o Tooth formation and eruption
▪ Teeth grow through the depositing of enamel and bone material, starting at the
tips of the teeth, and going to the roots.Acontinuous process.
▪ We can estimate age-at-death by looking at the growth of the tooth, but also the
eruption of teeth – i.e. which teeth have emerged?
▪ Once everything is fully grown this method doesn't work therefore only for
o Also – infants and fontanels
o Cranial Sutures
o Fusion of bones of skull (fontanels)
o Skull is several bones
o as we ages, fontanels ossify (sutures)
o Rates are known
o Useful for under age of 10
▯2 - Adults and age at death:
o Could look at tooth loss bit there are other reason for losing teeth
o can look at changes in the appearance of bones
o Pubic symphysis – where the two halves of the pelvis join (cartilaginous)
o As we age: goes from being ridged, to flatter, to porous
o Can be very subtle
o Sternal rib ends: Sternum: Flat chest bone
o Ribs connected (via cartilage)
o Aging = tendency of cartilage to ossify
o Rib ends: Start as smooth bone but becomes more porous. Start off billowy, but become
flatter, Ends become more ragged edges sharper
Determining the sex of the remains
- Very difficult to determine sex of subadults (because females have not developed the hip bones that
come with the hormones that develop after subadults)
- lots of sex determination options for adults
Typically forensic anthropologists are able to attain 90 to 100% accuracy using sex estimate
techniques if we have the entire adult skeleton
- Only the pelvis: about 90-95% accuracy (very useful because of hormones in women=bigger/
wider and oval shaped pelvic inlet pelvises because of child birth)
- Skull only: 80-90% accuracy
- Long bones only: 80% accuracy
Female pelvis is wider
- Women give birth: pelvic construction reflects this
- Female pelvis has an oval-shaped space between the bones – the pelvic inlet
- The male pelvis has a heart-shaped pelvic inlet.
- The sacrum (back of pelvis) is short and broad in females and long and narrow in males
Sexing the skull
- more likely to have slight brow ridges
- Larger mastoid
- Broader chins
- Skeletal traits do not necessarily correspond to things like skin colour
- Assessed via features that are more common among certain populations than others
- Forensic anthropologists may be asked to identify if victim may be ‘White’, ‘Black’or ‘Asian’
▯3 - Inherently problematic question
- Still may be some skeletal traits that might be more likely to appear in different populations (but
not always there!)
- Shovel-Shaped incisors: asian decent
- Firth cusp on molars
- The problems with determining ancestry
- Be cautions re: ancestry and skeletal traits
- (small) Brow ridges: May be more prevalent in individuals with European backgrounds
- Shape of noses
- Chins: May be more pointed in ‘Whites’, Blunter in ‘Blacks’and more rounded in ‘Asians’
- Afew things we might be able to look for
- Multiple lines of evidence: Ideally would like multiple skeletal indicators when attempting to
determine age-of-death, sex and ancestry..
- The more we have (more complete skeleton) the better our determinations
- Connective tissue contributes to height (not enough to measure the bones)