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What is Forensic Anthropology – A Complete Overview

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What is Forensic Anthropology – A Complete Overview

12,April 2024

The application of physical anthropology in the field of forensic science to solve crimes is known as Forensic Anthropology. It is the branch of forensics that uses anthropology to identify decomposed and damaged skeletons and human remains. Skeletons are used to identify some of the unique factors about a person like gender, age, and place of origin. These experts work closely with the investigating officers to trace evidence and determine the injuries caused to the deceased. Read the blog to get a complete overview of forensic anthropology.

What is Forensic Anthropology?

Forensic anthropology is a branch of physical anthropology that is combined with the legal framework to solve crimes. These experts play an important role in solving cases that raise questions about the identity of a person. It helps in solving crime mysteries by examining the skeleton in cases of buried dead bodies. Through their analysis and examination techniques, these people identify the identity of the deceased, manner of death, time since death, etc. In fact, these experts being specialists in their field of work can reconstruct the face of a skull that has been in the process of decomposition for the past 100 years.

What Do Forensic Anthropologists Do?

These experts are the only professionals who can read the dead remains and the degraded skeletons to conclude a case. Hence they work in close collaboration with the crime branches and the police department to solve criminal and civil cases where it becomes difficult for them to trace the identity of the deceased. Some of the most important tasks done by such professionals are mentioned below:

1. Study a Skeleton:

These experts can study a skeleton and find relevant evidence from it that can help in the investigation of the case. Since they can answer almost every possible question about someone’s identity just by having a look at the skeleton hence they are considered to be the most important and advanced forensic experts. Through their readings, they can answer questions like the age of the deceased based on the growth of the bones, depending on the formation and patterns of teeth of an individual they can identify whether the deceased was a child or an adult. Even you will be amazed to know that based on the shape of the pelvic bones they can also reveal the gender of the individual.

2. Analyze Human Remains:

These people have been analyzing the dead remains for centuries now and have been helping the crime investigations. Based on their findings they prepare the reports and present them to the law enforcement agencies thus helping in case solving. Sometimes they also conduct examinations on the dead remains to study the past to make conclusions on historic and prehistoric human remains.

3. Assist Law Enforcement Agencies:

These experts help the legal team with tracing and examining the location of a burial followed by recovering the human remains from the crime scene. These people analyze everything near the burial to find the evidence that can be presented in the courtroom.

4. Clean The Bones:

They also clean the bones of the remains so as to examine them and conclude the case in an efficient manner.

5. Interpret The Trauma of Deceased:

These experts are required to analyze and examine the skeleton and thus interpret the probable trauma that the deceased had to undergo during his lifetime. It helps in identifying the type and level of injuries present on the dead body.

6. Helps Odontologists:

These people work along with the odontologists to determine the pattern of teeth of the skeleton and thus match the findings with the dental records to trace the identity of the individual.

7. Testify In Court:

Along with the task of examining the skeleton, these people are also required to testify in the courtrooms to present their findings on the case and the scientific facts related to the case.

Forensic Anthropology Syllabus:

The syllabus of forensic anthropology is more or less the same as that of human anthropology. However, still a difference lies there which is because of the scientific or the forensic subjects in the program. Here below in the table, we have given the detailed syllabus for the same.

Serial No. Subject Syllabus
1. Introduction to Forensic Anthropology Definition; Brief History; Scope; Applications and Integration of Forensic Anthropology; Basic Human Skeletal Biology; Identification of Human and Non-Human Skeletal Remains; Ancestry, age, sex and stature estimation from bones; Discovery and Techniques for recovering skeletonized Human Remains.
2. Identification of Skeleton Personal Identification; Complete and Partial Identification.
3. Methods of Identification in Living Persons Somatometry; Somatoscopy; Occupational Marks; Scars; Bite Marks; Tattoo Marks; Fingerprints; Footprints; Lip Prints; Nails; Handwriting; Deformities and Others.
4. Serology Identification and Individualization of bloodstain, urine, semen, and saliva; Patterns of Bloodstains.
5. Individualization Forensic Odontology: Tooth Structure and Growth; Bite Marks; Facial Reconstruction; DNA Profiling.

Techniques Used In Forensic Anthropology:

In making important revelations about a case these experts use several scientific and anthropological techniques. These techniques are taught to them during college to make them better professionals. These techniques play an important role in the investigation of criminal and civil cases. Some of the techniques that are used by such people are mentioned below:

1. Conduct Medical Tests:

The foremost step taken by these professionals is to read a simple bone also to the utmost level so that they leave no trace of crime at all. Their aim of doing is to find any possible evidence related to the bone and ultimately with the crime they are investigating. For this, they conduct examinations like photography, X-ray, CT scan, and DNA analysis, along with other chemical analyses that can help in providing information on the age and other important factors related to a person.

2. Face Reconstruction:

After collecting enough relevant data about an individual skeleton, the next step followed by these people is to reconstruct the damaged and degraded face of the victim. This can be done using the superimposition method or using the underlying bone structure. The data gathered is studied and combined to draw conclusions about the deceased individual.

3. Collecting Bones:

These experts collect every bone they get either during exploration or during an investigation. They store these bones for future reference to keep a record of findings. These findings help them to understand the patterns of bone, their structure, etc. They are used for the purpose of training future anthropology students and reporting the trends of population structure over the y ears.

4. Reconstructing Past:

Based on the study of historical remains these experts create a picture of the living standards of people, their lifestyle, eating habits, etc. Along with this, based on the structural findings it can be speculated how the surgeries were done in the past or what kind of treatment was given to the patients.

Scope after Forensic Anthropology:

The scope of work for such professionals is wide, they get to work in several industries that too in their comfort zones. Almost every organization that deals with criminal and civil cases requires such professionals. Some of the top organizations that you can work with are mentioned below:

  • Archeological Survey of India,
  • Forensic Laboratories,
  • Hospitals,
  • Crime Branch,
  • Police Departments.

Forensic Anthropology Salary:

Because these people are required to travel throughout their entire professional career, they are offered exciting salaries. Some of these work in the government organization while others work in the private sector. Those who work with the government are offered higher packages as compared to those working with the private units. However, there are a few factors that affect the salary bar of forensic anthropologists. These factors are mentioned below:

Factors That Affect Forensic Psychologist Salary:

  • Geographical Factor: An expert working in remote areas like Runn of Kutch will be getting a higher salary than an expert working in the heart of India, i.e. New Delhi. This is because the facilities an expert working in the main city is getting are better than those an expert working in extremely remote areas and hence he has to work hard.
  • Educational Qualification: When we talk about the salary structure of such professionals, the foremost thing we consider is the educational qualification of an expert. An expert with PhD degree will be considered senior to an expert with an undergraduate degree. Hence, if you are someone who is willing to pursue a master’s before starting working as a forensic anthropologist then it is going to be a great idea.

Experience: Another important factor that decides the package that will be offered to such experts is the number of years he has been working in the industry. This is because more he has been involved in this work; the more his understanding of the work. The salaries may vary based on the experience as mentioned in the table below. Candidates can have a look at the table to get a better picture about the same:

Serial No. Experience Salary (Per Annum)
1. Entry level (less than one year) 6-7 Lakhs
2. Early career (1-4 years) 7-9 Lakhs
3. Mid career (5-9 years) 9-12 Lakhs
4. Experienced (10-19 years) 12-15 Lakhs
5. Late-career (20+ years) 15 Lakhs+

This field is a unique one because it gives you the opportunity to work daily with different body structures. While you may think the type of work is the same it is not right as you will deal with skeletons with different levels of degradation. While some skeletons might be fresh others may be degraded to an undiscoverable form.


  • https://naturalhistory.si.edu /education/teaching-resources /social-studies/forensic-anthropology
  • https://www.britannica.com /science/forensic-anthropology
  • https://fac.utk.edu/what- do-forensic-anthropologists-do/
  • https://www.aafs.org/ careers-anthropology