Article

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.

2 Bookmarks
 · 
592 Views
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Confidence in the timing of cranial blunt force trauma and manner of death is needed in order to address violence in antiquity. This paper sought to highlight difficulties in the interpretation of perimortem trauma using examples from the Schild site (AD 700–1200). During excavations in 1962, archaeologist Gregory Perino claimed two victims with celt wounds to the head and six with crushed skulls. Heilman and colleagues (1991) confirmed the head injuries and found additional cases. The author continued the investigation and looked for more cases. Impact characteristics were compared to examples of damage at Schild caused by known taphonomic factors. Although seventeen potentially lethal injuries were observed, confidence in classifying the trauma as time of death lessened under the scrutiny of forensic methodologies and the application of a cluster analysis. The author pursued additional lines of evidence that included the burial context and weapon-related trauma. The evaluation of perimortem trauma at Schild demonstrated that (1) perimortem fracturing may not always represent time of death injuries, (2) perimortem fracturing may not always be indicative of homicide, and (3) all homicides do not necessarily reflect violent acts committed by non-community members.
    International Journal of Paleopathology. 2(s 2–3):112–122.
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The distinction between perimortem and postmortem fractures is an important challenge for forensic anthropology. Such a crucial task is presently based on macro-morphological criteria widely accepted in the scientific community. However, several limits affect these parameters which have not yet been investigated thoroughly. This study aims at highlighting the pitfalls and errors in evaluating perimortem or postmortem fractures. Two trained forensic anthropologists were asked to classify 210 fractures of known origin in four skeletons (three victims of blunt force trauma and one natural death) as perimortem, postmortem, or dubious, twice in 6 months in order to assess intraobserver error also. Results show large errors, ranging from 14.8 to 37% for perimortem fractures and from 5.5 to 14.8% for postmortem ones; more than 80% of errors concerned trabecular bone. This supports the need for more objective and reliable criteria for a correct assessment of peri- and postmortem bone fractures.
    Journal of Forensic Sciences 07/2014; · 1.31 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Ancestry estimation is essential for biological profile estimation in forensic anthropology. Hefner (2009) and Osteoware (Smithsonian Institution, 2011) presented 16 macromorphoscopic traits that can be scored for standardized data collection and can also be used within a statistical framework to estimate ancestry. The primary purpose of this research was to examine the utility of these traits for assessing ancestry. Tests of observer agreement and the range of variation in trait expression were evaluated. A sample of 208 American whites and blacks from the Hamann–Todd Collection were scored, and several classification methods were utilized in accordance with Hefner (2009). Correct classifications for the pooled sex analyses ranged from 73.3% to 86.6% and from 46.7% to 64.3% when the sexes were analyzed independently. Interobserver agreement was variable and was found to be lower than that presented in Hefner (2009). Trait expression was variable in both groups and was generally consistent with Hefner's findings.
    Journal of Forensic Sciences 07/2014; · 1.31 Impact Factor

Full-text

Download
139 Downloads
Available from
Jun 2, 2014