New perspectives in forensic anthropology.

Department of Applied Forensic Sciences, Mercyhurst College, Erie, PA 16546, USA.
American Journal of Physical Anthropology (Impact Factor: 2.51). 02/2008; Suppl 47:33-52. DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.20948
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT A critical review of the conceptual and practical evolution of forensic anthropology during the last two decades serves to identify two key external factors and four tightly inter-related internal methodological advances that have significantly affected the discipline. These key developments have not only altered the current practice of forensic anthropology, but also its goals, objectives, scope, and definition. The development of DNA analysis techniques served to undermine the classic role of forensic anthropology as a field almost exclusively focused on victim identification. The introduction of the Daubert criteria in the courtroom presentation of scientific testimony accompanied the development of new human comparative samples and tools for data analysis and sharing, resulting in a vastly enhanced role for quantitative methods in human skeletal analysis. Additionally, new questions asked of forensic anthropologists, beyond identity, required sound scientific bases and expanded the scope of the field. This environment favored the incipient development of the interrelated fields of forensic taphonomy, forensic archaeology, and forensic trauma analysis, fields concerned with the reconstruction of events surrounding death. Far from representing the mere addition of new methodological techniques, these disciplines (especially, forensic taphonomy) provide forensic anthropology with a new conceptual framework, which is broader, deeper, and more solidly entrenched in the natural sciences. It is argued that this new framework represents a true paradigm shift, as it modifies not only the way in which classic forensic anthropological questions are answered, but also the goals and tasks of forensic anthropologists, and their perception of what can be considered a legitimate question or problem to be answered within the field.

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Jun 2, 2014