National Center for Forensic Science

Anthropology

Human Remains and Forensic Anthropology

Trained cadaver dogs provide a valuable service to the forensic and law enforcement communities to detect human remains.  The dog’s evolved sensory system couple with adaptable on-board data processing is a tough combination to reproduce with mechanical sensor systems.  Forensic anthropology applies physical and biological analysis of skeletal, badly decomposed, or otherwise unidentified human remains.  Besides locating and recovering human remains, forensic anthropologists assess the age, sex, ancestry, stature, and unique features of a decedent from their skeletal remains.  They work in conjunction with pathologists, odonatologists, and investigators to identify a decedent, document trauma, and/or estimate the postmortem interval.

Reference: ABFA – American Board of Forensic Anthropology, http://theabfa.org/, accessed March 10, 2016.

NCFS research:

1.NCFS partnership with the Bee Alert program at the University of Montana to test the trainability and performance of honey bees in locating human remains and clandestine laboratories.

2.A joint study was undertaken to differentiate bone from non-bone materials and human from non-human by X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy comparing the relative ratios of the elements.

3.Another study undertaken to differentiate bone from non-bone materials and human from non-human performed elemental analysis by scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive spectroscopy (SEM-EDS).

For more information contact Dr. Michael Sigman, Dr. John Schultz, and Dr. Matthieu Baudelet.