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Forensic Anthropology

Contemporary Theory and Practice

Debra Komar and Jane Buikstra

Publication Date - 07 November 2007

ISBN: 9780195300291

384 pages
6-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

The first comprehensive text in the field, Forensic Anthropology examines the medical, legal, ethical, and humanitarian issues associated with forensic anthropology, current forensic methods, and bio-historical investigations.


Forensic anthropology is a vastly popular and rapidly changing profession, yet to date there has been no volume that reflects the current state of the discipline and forecasts its future. The first comprehensive text in the field, Forensic Anthropology: Contemporary Theory and Practice examines the medical, legal, ethical, and humanitarian issues associated with forensic anthropology, current forensic methods, and bio-historical investigations.
Forensic Anthropology offers a unique synthesis of theoretical and methodological coverage. Rather than simply describing methodology, Komar and Buikstra place forensic anthropology in the broader context of medico-legal death investigations, critically evaluating practical techniques in a scientific framework and detailing the anthropologist's role in relation to both law enforcement and the medical examiner or coroner. The authors review the current state of the field, emphasizing recent changes to the judicial guidelines regarding the admissibility of scientific evidence in court. They highlight the impact of these rulings, the increased need for scientific rigor, and the evolving nature of anthropological studies, preparing students to function effectively in the demanding judicial system that will evaluate their work in the future. The text also stresses the vital importance of research in the development of forensic applications of anthropology.
Forensic Anthropology is enhanced by numerous illustrative case studies and more than ninety photos and illustrations that help to deepen and enrich students' understanding of the material. Coauthored by a top authority in forensic anthropology and an anthropologist whose fieldwork has included medico-legal death investigation in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Darfur, this volume is an in-depth and indispensable guide to the dynamic and rapidly professionalizing field of forensic anthropology.


"This book is definitely one that I would use in my classes. As a reference text it is one that all practicing forensic anthropologists will want to own and will want their students to have. Other volumes do not provide a comprehensive resource for the challenges facing us today. Such a volume as [this one] will certainly advance that cause."--Mary H. Manhein, Louisiana State University a Deputy Coroner of East Baton Rouge Parish

"This book is superior to any other source on the market today. In recommending this book to colleagues I should note its coverage of the U.S. legal system, enlightened discussion of the NAGPRA issue and related ethical problems, its adequate history of the American advances in forensic anthropology, and the excellent case histories that it includes."--Kenneth A. R. Kennedy, Cornell University

"Overall, this book is a valuable resource for teaching advanced undergraduate and graduate students. It has an excellent bibliography that contains over eight hundred references, which students, instructors, and professionals will find especially useful. The case studies, illustrations, tables, and extensive glossary all complement the well-written and easy to read text. The success of this book can be attributed to the authors' combined decades of experience, careful review of the literature, and dedication toward improving the discipline of forensic anthropology. Komar and Buikstra's commitment to both the education and training of forensic practitioners is impressively conveyed in this comprehensive work."--Rebecca A. Cuddahee, Duke University, in PaleoAnthropology 2009

Table of Contents

    Chapters 2-10 open with an Introduction and end with a Conclusion.
    1. Introduction
    Forensic Anthropology: A Brief History (1972-2006)
    What Is Forensic Anthropology Today?
    Where Do Forensic Anthropologists Work?
    Is Forensic Anthropology Expanding in the United States?
    Forensic Anthropology Outside the United States
    Research in Forensic Anthropology Today
    Forensic Anthropology in Perspective
    2. The Medicolegal System
    The Medicolegal System
    Death Investigation
    Cause and Manner of Death
    Motive, Intent, and Volition
    Autopsy and Postmortem Examinations
    Triage and Mechanisms of Death
    Anthropology and Autopsy
    Public Perception of Autopsy
    3. Evidence and the Judicial System
    Systems of Classification of Evidence
    Recognizing Evidence
    Evidence Interpretation: Rationality versus Parsimony
    The Judicial System: An Overview
    Testifying as a Witness
    Qualifying as an Expert Witness
    4. Crime Scene Investigation: Identifying Medicolegal Remains, Search Strategies, and Scene Documentation
    Identifying Remains of Medicolegal Significance
    Types of Nonmedicolegal Remains
    Distinguishing Recent from Archaeological Remains
    Differentiating Human from Animal Bone and Nonbiological Materials
    Jurisdiction and the Crime Scene
    Responsibility versus Authority
    Evaluating Scenes
    Search Strategies
    Archaeological versus Forensic Approaches to Excavation
    Theories of Deposition
    Report Writing
    5. Beginning the Identification Process: Developing a Biological Profile
    Theories and Methods in Forensic Anthropology
    The Estimation of Sex from Skeletal Remains
    Sex: Juvenile Remains
    Sex: Adult Remains
    The Estimation of Age-at-Death from Skeletal Remains
    Age: Juvenile Remains
    Age: Adult Remains
    Stature Estimation
    Other Physical Features
    6. Pathology and Trauma Assessment
    The Language of Pathology, Anatomy, and Medicine
    Pathology: An Overview
    Classes of Pathology
    Trauma Assessment
    Sharp Force Trauma
    Tool Mark Analysis
    Blunt Force Trauma
    Internal and External Factors in Fractures
    Gunshot Wound Interpretation
    Typical Gunshot Wound Morphology
    Atypical Gunshot Wound Morphology
    Determining the Sequence of Injuries in Polytonic Trauma
    7. Forensic Taphonomy
    Forensic Taphonomy
    The Goals of Forensic Taphonomy
    Time-Since-Death Estimation
    Methods of Time-Since-Death Estimation
    Bone Modification
    Mechanisms of Transport
    Preservation and Collection Bias
    Reconstructing Perimortem Events
    8. Personal Identification
    How Identification Is Established
    Categories of Identification
    Doe Designation
    Methods of Positive Identification
    Visual Recognition
    Nuclear DNA
    DNA and Forensic Anthropology
    Forensic Odontology
    Radiologic Identification
    Alternative Medical Imaging
    Impact of Daubert on Positive Identification
    Photographic Superimposition and Facial Recognition
    9. Mass Death and International Investigations of Human Rights Violations
    War Crimes
    Group Identity versus Personal Identification
    Personal Identification
    Humanitarian versus Medicolegal Response
    Establishing Jurisdiction
    Mass Graves
    10. Biohistory: Historical Questions, Methods, and Ethics
    Biohistory: Past and Present
    Other Biohistorical Questions
    Noninvasive Analyses
    A Case Study in Biohistorical and Forensic Investigation: Billy the Kid
    A Brief History of Billy the Kid
    The (Almost) Exhumation of Billy the Kid
    References Cited and Related Bibliographic Items