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Brief history of forensic anthropology 09/01/2008

Important Announcement
• Final syllabus posted online
o Exam 1: Mon, Feb. 11
o Exam 2: Fri, Mar. 21
o Exam 3: Thurs, May. 1

• required: Byers Chapter 1
• recommended (on e-learning):
o C. Snow article – history of forensic anthropology
o T.D. Stewart article – Luetgert Case

Today’s Class

• what is forensic anthropology? How does it fit into the field of
• What do forensic anthropology do?
• Who were the main people influential in starting the field?
• How has the field changed over time? What are the major events in

What is anthropology?
• The study of the biological and cultural aspects of all humans in all
places in all times.
• Four main fields
o Biological
 Primate behavior and studies, evolution of humans and
o Cultural
 Studying their traditions, both historical and modern
o Archeology
 Historical sites, looking at skeletons and actual locations
where people might have lived
o Linguistic
 How languages change and how they interact
What are forensic sciences?
• Fields of study in medicine and jurisprudence that deal with legal
issues, both criminal and civil
• Any scientific field applied to the law
o Toxicology
o Entomology
o Pathology
o Anthropology

Forensic anthropology as an interdisciplinary field
• Combines biological anthropology and forensic science
o Study of skeletal material that comes under the
jurisdiction of law enforcement and similar agencies
(i.e. medico legal context)
• What makes skeletal material of medico-legal interest?
o Human
 Not human, not really important
o If you have to testify in court
 Blunt force trauma, dental records and such
o Skeletons over 50 years are dealt as historical, if 50 years or
less then it is important
Definition: ABFA
• Forensic anthropology is the application of the science of physical
anthropology to the legal process.
• The identification of skeletal, badly decomposed, or
otherwise unidentified human remains is important for both
legal and humanitarian reasons.
Questions Concerning human remains
• Who is the person?
• When did they die?
• How did they die?
Types of cases analyzed
• Decomposed
o Might be a few days, 5 years. All states of decomposition.
• Burned
• Buried
• Surface recovery
• Partial skeletonization
• Complete skeletonized
• Human rights
• Cremation analysis
• Mass fatalities
Main objectives of a forensic anthropologist
• Create a biological profile
• Identify traumatic events
• Time since death (postmortem interval)
• Location/recovery of remains
• Identifying characteristics
Data gathering methods
• Anthroposcopy = visual inspection of the human body
• Osteometry = measurement of human bone
• Histology = study of the microstructure of bone and teeth
• DNA analysis on bones if you think you know the relatives
1. Biological Profile
• determination of:
o human vs. non-human
o sex of an individual
 depends on what bones you have
o age
 certain parts of the skeleton are better to determine age
o ancestry
 skull is critical for this
o stature
2. Traumatic Events
• identify nature of traumatic event on the bone and how it occurred
• blunt force trauma and sharp force trauma
3. Time Since Death
• determination of postmortem interval (PMI)
o the amount of time that has passed since death
• is it of forensic significance?
o Recent?
o Historic?
o Prehistoric?
4. Location/Recovery of Remains
• location and recovery of buried or surface remains using
archaeological methods
o being able to preserve the context of things
5. Identifying Characteristics
• provide information useful in obtaining positive identifications
o dental work is great
o teeth last a lot better than bone
o x-ray comparison
 a weird skeletal issue. Broken bones and such that had
o Broken bones
o Surgical devices
o Unique attributes
Relationship of FA with MEO and Law Enforcement
• Body recovery
o Better knowledge of what they are looking for
• Body identification
• Scene analysis
o If this were scattered it might provide some information
• Trauma
• Testify in court
o About the findings
History of forensic anthropology

three periods
• formative (1800s – 1938)
• Consolidation (1939 – 1971)
• Modern (1972 – present)

formative period (1800s – 1938)
• no such thing as “forensic anthropology”
• skeletal identification
o nothing fancy about it
• current forensic anthropology has it roots in
o anatomy
o biological anthropology
• Parkman Murder (1849)
o Dr. Parkman
 Rich physician
o Dr. Webster
 Borrowed money from Parkman
 Parkman wanted his money back
 Killed and dismembered Parkman
 Placed body pieces in different places
o Two anatomists, Holmes and Wyman investigate the death
o First to use some of the methods still used today
o Webster claimed they were “anatomical specimens”
o Holmes and Wyman determined the body was of 5’10” white
mal, 50-60 years old
o They found no evidence of embalming fluid
o Park man was identified by the dentist that made his new
• Thomas Dwight (1843 – 1911)
o Father of forensic anthropology
o Anatomist at Harvard
o Human skeletal Identification
 Age, height, and sex
 Stature estimates
 Emphasized human variation and that it could be
used to identified someone
• Luetgert “Sausage Vat” Murder (1897)
o Adolph Luetgert was accused of killing his wife
o He mixed the body in the sausage factory with hot potash
o Turned her body into soap and her bones into “jelly”
o They found a few pieces of evidences which were smaller than
a quarter
o Anthropologist George Dorsey testified the fragments were
human, hand, foot, and rib bones
o First “forensic anthropologist” to testify in court

09/01/2008 12:44:00
09/01/2008 12:44:00

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