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Forensic Science 420

FOSC 420: Advanced Forensic Anthropology

Prerequisites: ANSC 201, ANSC 210, ANSC 320; or ANTH 120, ANTH 230, ANTH 320; or permission of instructor

Cross-Listed: ANSC 420

Credit Hours: (4) Three hours lecture; three hours laboratory

Offers advanced hands-on experience and training in the identification of unknown human skeletal remains. Students will conduct skeletal analyses focusing on basic vital statistical parameters like age, sex, race, and stature. Other topics reviewed will include the role of the forensic anthropologist in crime scene investigation and recovery of skeletonized human remains, determination of time since death, skeletal trauma and pathology, and special techniques in forensic anthropology.

Note(s): Students cannot receive credit for both ANTH 420 and ANSC 420.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

The lecture portion of this course reviews the major methods and techniques used by forensic anthropologists in the identification and analysis of unknown human skeletal remains. This consists of a focus on the identification, recovery, and curation of human remains in a variety of contexts (surface, buried, burned, submerged, mass disasters). Major methods of forensic investigation of bone reviewed will include determination of age and sex of individuals, as well as their ethnic affinity, stature, and probable cause of death. In addition, time since death will be investigated through a variety of different forensic techniques (e.g., forensic taphonomy, postmorten insect infestation, postmortem decay rates). Aspects of forensic dentistry will also be explored, including, for example, the use of dental remains in making positive IDs, bite-mark analysis, and the application of dental investigation to mass disasters. Special topics in forensic anthropology will also be discussed, including facial reconstruction and footprint analysis. Students will ultimately gain an understanding of the role of the forensic anthropologist in a medicolegal setting and be able to critically evaluate the types of evidence he or she presents.

The laboratory component of the course is a hands-on application of the above-stated principles in forensic anthropology to the study of unidentified human bone. Students will be presented with regular “forensic cases” consisting of unidentified human skeletal remains. They will be responsible for analyzing this bone using standard forensic anthropology methodology and writing a forensic report detailing their results. Discussion of these cases follows in the classroom portion of the course.


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

This course will be a student-centered seminar-type discussion of major topics in forensic anthropology. This will comprise the majority of the “lecture” component of the course. The laboratory component will consist of student hands-on experience and training in the identification and interpretation of human skeletal remains. Major techniques in forensic osteological analysis will be applied to human skeletal remains curated in Radford University’s Archaeology and Physical Anthropology laboratory.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

1. Understanding of the role and training of professional forensic anthropologists, particularly in a medicolegal context
2. Understanding and critical evaluation of evidence presented by forensic anthropologists in a trial setting
3. Understanding of the decay process of human remains and the uses of this process in forensic investigation;
4. Understanding of the various contexts in which human bone may be found and the taphonomic agents which may affect it;
5. Knowledge of appropriate excavation and curation procedures for human remains;
6. Knowledge of and ability to use major techniques for identification of unknown human skeletal remains, including:
7. determination of a skeleton’s vital statistics (age, sex, ethnic affinity, stature);
8. determination of time since death;
9. identification and interpretation of the nature and origin of skeletal pathology and trauma

Assessment Measures

Grades will be based on a series of written forensic case reports detailing the identification of unknown human skeletal remains. In addition, two exams will assess student knowledge of basic forensic anthropology methods and principles. And, finally, a research paper detailing some aspect of forensic investigation of skeletonized human remains will be required.


Other Course Information

Human skeletal collections already curated at the Radford University Archaeology and Physical Anthropology laboratory as well as any forensic cases submitted for analysis by law enforcement agencies will provide the cases for student study. Guest speakers from law enforcement agencies and the discipline of forensic anthropology will be solicited.


Review and Aproval

September, 2001

December, 2009

April, 2011