ForensicAnthropology andOdontology 000

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Forensic Anthropology: Studying Bones: 

Forensic Anthropology: Studying Bones

Why Study Bones?: 

Why Study Bones? They constitute the evidence for the study of fossil man. They are the basis of racial classification in prehistory. They are the means of biological comparison of prehistoric peoples with the present living descendents. They bear witness to burial patterns and thus give evidence for the culture and world view of the people studied. They form the major source of information on ancient diseases and often give clues as to the causes of death. Their identification often helps solve forensic cases. From: "Human Osteology - A Laboratory and Field Manual" 3rd Edition, 1987

A Caveat: 

A Caveat Informative features about the age, sex, race and stature of individuals based on bones is based on biological differences between sexes and races (males are generally taller and more robust) as well as differences due to ancestry (certain skeletal features of the skull) However, it is imprecise because so much human variation exists and because racial differences tend to homogenize as populations interbreed Still differences do exist and the more features you survey, the more precise your conclusions will be

What Can We Learn?: 

What Can We Learn? Determination of Sex Pelvis Skull Determination of Race Skull Approximate Age Growth of long bones Approximate Stature Length of long bones Postmortem or antimortem injuries Postmortem interval (time of death)


1. Determination of Sex Pelvis is the best bones (differences due to adaptations to childbirth) females have wider subpubic angle females have a sciatic notch > 90° females have a broad pelvic inlet 1. 1. 1. 2. 2. 2. 3. 3. 3.


1. Determination of Sex Pelvis best (another view) females have wider subpubic angle females have a broad, shovel-like ilium females have a flexible pubic symphysis 1. 1. 2. 2. 3. 1. 2. 3.

1. Determination of Sex: Cranium: 

1. Determination of Sex: Cranium Crests and ridges more pronounced in males (A, B, C) Chin significantly more square in males (E) Mastoid process wide and robust in males Forehead slopes more in males (F)

1. Determination of Sex: 

1. Determination of Sex Normally, the long bones alone are not used alone to estimate gender. However, if these bones are the only ones present, there are characteristics that can be used for sex determination. E.g. maximum length of humerus in females is 305.9 mm, while it is 339.0 mm in males

Determination of Race: 

Determination of Race It can be extremely difficult to determine the true race of a skeleton for several reasons: First, forensic anthropologists generally use a three-race model to categorize skeletal traits: Caucasian (European), Asian (Asian/Amerindian), and African (African and West Indian). Although there are certainly some common physical characteristics among these groups, not all individuals have skeletal traits that are completely consistent with their geographic origin. Second, people of mixed racial ancestry are common. Often times, a skeleton exhibits characteristics of more than one racial group and does not fit neatly into the three-race model. Also, the vast majority of the skeletal indicators used to determine race are non-metric traits which can be highly subjective. Despite these drawbacks, race determination is viewed as a critical part of the overall identification of an individual's remains.

White, Asian, African: 

White, Asian, African From: Beyers, S.N. (2005). Introduction to Forensic Anthropology

Features of the Skull Used in Race Determination: 

Features of the Skull Used in Race Determination Nasal index: The ratio of the width to the height of the nose, multiplied by 100 Nasal Spine Feel the base of the nasal cavity, on either side of the nasal spine – do you feel sharp ridges (nasal silling), rounded ridges, or no ridges at all (nasal guttering)? Prognathism: extended lower jaw Shape of eye orbits (round or squareish Nasal spine

Nasal Silling and Guttering: 

Nasal Silling and Guttering From: Beyers, S.N. (2005). Introduction to Forensic Anthropology

General Shapes of the Eye Orbits: 

General Shapes of the Eye Orbits From: Beyers, S.N. (2005). Introduction to Forensic Anthropology

Determination of Race: Caucasian: 

Determination of Race: Caucasian

Determination of Race: Asian (Asian decent and Native American decent): 

Determination of Race: Asian (Asian decent and Native American decent)

Determination of Race: African: (everyone of African decent and West Indian decent): 

Determination of Race: African: (everyone of African decent and West Indian decent)

Determination of Age: 

Determination of Age The long bones are those that grow primarily by elongation at an epiphysis at one end of the growing bone. The long bones include the femurs, tibias, and fibulas of the legs, the humeri, radii, and ulnas of the arms, and the phalanges of the fingers and toes. As a child grows the epiphyses become calcified (turn to hard bone)

2. Determination of Age from Bones: 

2. Determination of Age from Bones Ages 0-5: teeth are best – forensic odontology Baby teeth are lost and adult teeth erupt in predictable patterns Ages 6-25: epiphyseal fusion – fusion of bone ends to bone shaft epiphyseal fusion varies with sex and is typically complete by age 25 Ages 25-40: very hard Ages 40+: basically wear and tear on bones periodontal disease, arthritis, breakdown of pelvis, etc. Can also use ossification of bones such as those found in the cranium

Epiphyseal Fusion: A General Guide: 

Epiphyseal Fusion: A General Guide

Epiphyseal Fusion : 

Epiphyseal Fusion The figures below are of the Epiphyses of the femur or thigh bone (the ball end of the joint, joined by a layer of cartilage). The lines in the illustrated Image 1 show the lines or layers of cartilage between the bone and the epiphyses. The lines are very clear on the bone when a person, either male or female is not out of puberty. In Image 2, you see no visible lines. This person is out of puberty. The epiphyses have fully joined when a person reaches adulthood, closing off the ability to grow taller or in the case of the arms, to grow longer. Figure 1. Figure 2.


2. Determination of Age from Bone: Signs of wearing and antemortem injury Occupational stress wears bones at joints Surgeries or healed wounds aid in identification

2. Age Determination: Use of Teeth: 

2. Age Determination: Use of Teeth

3. Determination of Stature: 

3. Determination of Stature Long bone length (femur, tibia, humerus) is proportional to height There are tables that forensic anthropologists use (but these also depend to some extent on race) Since this is inexact, there are ‘confidence intervals’ assigned to each calculation. For example, imagine from a skull and pelvis you determined the individual was an adult Caucasian, the height would be determine by: Humerus length = 30.8 cm Height = 2.89 (MLH) + 78.10 cm = 2.89 (30.8) + 78.10 cm = 167 cm (5’6”) ± 4.57 cm See your lab handout for more tables

4. Other Information We Can Get From Bones:: 

4. Other Information We Can Get From Bones: Evidence of trauma (here GSW to the head) Evidence of post mortem trauma (here the head of the femur was chewed off by a carnivore)


Sources: A very good website with photos and information on forensic anthropology (including estimating age, stature, sex and race): A good site with a range of resources: Another good primer for determining informtion from bones: Great, interactive site:

Lab: the bones we’re interested in: 

Lab: the bones we’re interested in Tibia Pelvis Humerus Skull Femur

Sex Determination - Pelvis: 

Sex Determination - Pelvis Sub-Pubic Angle Pubis Body Width Greater Sciatic Notch Pelvic Cavity Shape

Sex Determination - Skull: 

Sex Determination - Skull

Sex Determination - Tibia: 

Sex Determination - Tibia Lateral Condyle Medial Condyle “Ankle Bone” Proximal End Distal End

If You’re In Doubt…: 

If You’re In Doubt… If you don’t know what something is that is referenced in the lab: Check to see if there is an accompanying picture referenced, and turn to it in your lab handout Try Googling either the structure (e.g. Wikipedia) or Google image search Ask Artiss Some skeletons have a femur and not a tibia, and some have a tibia and not a femur – do appropriate measurements for whichever you have

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