Fundamentals of Forensic Anthropology, ISBN-13: 978-0471210061

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Fundamentals of Forensic Anthropology, ISBN-13: 978-0471210061
[PDF eBook eTextbook]

220 pages
Publisher: Wiley-Liss; 1 edition (June 30, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0471210064
ISBN-13: 978-0471210061

An essential foundation for the practice of forensic anthropology

This text is the first of its level written in more than twenty years. It serves as a summary and guide to the core material that needs to be mastered and evaluated for the practice of forensic anthropology.

The text is divided into three parts that collectively provide a solid base in theory and methodology:

– Part One, “Background Setting for Forensic Anthropology,” introduces the field and discusses the role of forensic anthropology in historic context.
– Part Two, “Towards Personal Identification,” discusses initial assessments of skeletal remains; determining sex, age, ancestral background, and stature; and skeletal markers of activity and life history.
– Part Three, “Principal Anthropological Roles in Medical-Legal Investigation,” examines trauma; the postmortem period; professionalism, ethics, and the expert witness; and genetics and DNA.

The critical and evaluative approach to the primary literature stresses the inherent biological constraints on degrees of precision and certainty, and cautions about potential pitfalls. The practical focus, coupled with theoretical basics, make Fundamentals of Forensic Anthropology ideal for upper-level undergraduates and graduate students in biological anthropology as well as forensic scientists in allied fields of medical-legal investigation.


“I enthusiastically recommend Fundamentals of Forensic Anthropology as reading in upper level forensic anthropology courses…both strongly theoretical and practical. I also recommend it to all forensic-science professionals as a helpful reference to have at hand.” (The Applied Anthropologist, Spring 2008, reviewed by Gabrielle Jones)

“[The author] sets the standard for how textbooks should be engagingly written with clarity and humor.” (reviewed by Jeri DeYoung, The Applied Anthropologist, Spring 2008)

“…a valuable addition to the forensic science literature…essential.” (CHOICE, June 2007)

“…an important contribution from a well versed and experienced forensic anthropologist, and will serve as a useful summary of the state of the science today.” (American Journal of Physical Anthropology, March 2007)

“…the first of its level written in more than twenty years…an essential foundation for the practice of forensic anthropology.” (, August 2006)

Table of contents





1 Introduction.

Overview of the Field.

Education and Training.

Overview of the Book.

2 The Role of Forensic Anthropology in Historical Context.

The Somewhat Difficult Birth of a Specialty.

The Middle Years.

Approaching Senescence?


3 Initial Assessments of Skeletal Remains.

Human or Not?

Number of Individuals Represented.

4 Assignment of Sex.

Criteria for Sex Attribution in the Adult Skeleton.

Pelvic Traits.

The Skull.

Visual Assessment.

Discriminant Function Analysis.

The Appendicular Bones.



Other Appendicular Elements.

Miscellaneous Axial Bones.

Attribution of Sex from the Skeletons of Children.

Figuring the Error Rate.

5 Age Estimation.

The Early Years.

Dental Age.

Bone Age.

Long Bone Length.

Union of Primary Ossification Centers.

Epiphyseal Fusion.

The Adult Years.

Macroscopic Methods.

Face of the Pubic Symphysis.

Sternal Extremity of the Rib.

The Auricular Surface.

Cranial Suture Closure.

Dental Methods.

Microscopic Methods.

Other Age Indicators.

Concluding Remarks on Adult Age Estimation.

6 Deciphering Ancestral Background.

The Biological and the Cultural.

The Biological Context.

The Cultural Component.

Skeletal Indicators.

The Skull.

The Postcranium.

7 Stature Estimation.

How Tall Are You, Really?

Estimation of Living Stature from Skeletal Remains.

The Fully Method.

Stature Estimation From Long Bone Length.

Comparison of Methods.

Reporting Stature Estimates.

Correcting Stature Estimates for Older Adults.

Secular Trend.

Stature Estimates from Fragmentary Long Bones.

Stature Estimation from Short Bone Length.

Footwear and Foot Length.

8 Skeletal Markers of Activity and Life History.

Childbirth Indicators.


Other Activity Markers.

Partial Medical History.

Medical Radiology.


9 Trauma.

Blunt Force Trauma.

Cranial Fracture.

Hyoid Fracture.

Postcranial Fracture.

Child Abuse.

Penetrating and Perforating Trauma.

Gunshot Wounds.

Sharp Injuries.

10 The Postmortem Period.

Estimation of the Postmortem Interval.

Postmortem Events.

Carnivore Scavenging.


Has the Body Been Burned?


Bone Shrinkage.


Ritual Use of Skeletal Material.

11 Professionalism, Ethics, and the Expert Witness.

The Expert Witness.

Standards and Credentials for Expert Testimony.

Some Practical Issues.


Science in the Courtroom: Two Unfortunate Examples.

When Good Science is not Presented.

When Good Science is Ignored.

12 Genetics and DNA.

Serology and Mendelian Genetics.

Forensic DNA Analysis.

Legal Considerations.



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