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What Does a Forensic Anthropologist Do?

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What Does a Forensic Anthropologist Do?

01,March 2024

The branch of Forensics that deals with the use of scientific techniques for the identification of the deceased is called Forensic Anthropology. It primarily deals with the study of skeletons and the dead remains to determine the profile of the deceased. These experts examine the dead and can reveal major things about them such as their age, sex, ancestry, and ethnicity thus helping in case investigation. Apart from this, these experts work in close collaboration with archeologists and crime investigators and analyze the dead remains found in the burials.

What do Forensic Anthropologists do?

Under this branch of Forensic Science, these experts can study the dead remains and can trace their backgrounds precisely. They examine the broken and damaged skeletons and thus figure out the age, sex, and occupation of the deceased. Along with these basic things they also try to figure out the cause of the death by accompanying the forensic entomologists. These experts analyze the skeleton of the dead and present findings such as the features of the skull, dental pattern, bone shape, and size.

These experts gather information regarding the unidentified person from the bones found in the burials. They analyze the bones and tissues of the human body and try to determine the identity of the deceased, the manner they died, and the estimated time since their death. After getting the findings on a case, these people testify in a court of law and present their findings as evidence and proof.

These people try to determine the wounds on the body of the deceased that led to his demise. They aim to estimate the period of the body’s decomposition. These people work in close coordination with the law enforcement agencies and the allied specialists. The people whom they work with are ballistics and explosives specialists, pathologists, serologists, and forensic toxicologists.

Techniques Used by Anthropologists:

  • Bone Examination: These experts use various techniques in skeleton analysis to get the desired findings of the case. Their first step is to gather the damaged and decomposed bones and conduct tests such as photography, X-ray, CT Scans, and high- powered microscopes. They use high-standard techniques and tools to ensure that the authenticity of the evidence is not hampered and the remains are not altered. In cases where no existing records are available, these people conduct DNA analysis of these remains and compare the findings with the DNA samples of the people associated with the case they are investigating.
  • Study of Teeth: Teeth being the strongest part of the human body are the hardest to damage. Hence, they are the preferred evidence in case of the damaged body of the deceased. The alignment of teeth is so unique that it can distinguish between all the people on this earth just like DNA analysis. With the pattern of teeth, the experts can reveal much more about the identity of the deceased. Factors like occupation, hobby, ethnicity, etc can be determined through the study of teeth.
  • Reconstructing the Past: These experts can trace the records of the deceased using various methods. For example, by examining the hair follicle of the corpse, these people can determine whether the person was a drug addict or not. It is because drugs are passed through the bloodstream and get stored in the follicle for a longer period.

Also Read: Forensic Science Salary 2024 : A Complete Overview

Roles And Responsibilities of Forensic Anthropologists:

These experts are responsible for carrying out a wide range of responsibilities in the field of forensics. Though their maximum time is spent in the laboratory, some of their job responsibility lies in the field and the courtroom as well. They are responsible for carrying out both, on-site and off-site roles. Some of the important roles and responsibilities of these experts have been mentioned below:

  • Locating And Excavating The Burial Site:These experts accompany the archeologists and the investigation team in tracing burial sites. These sites can be new or ancient. After tracing the sites, these people excavate the area to study the patterns of burial and get a better understanding of the same. These experts explore these sites to trace the presence of items present under the burials. For this purpose, they use infrared cameras and metal detectors.
  • Recovering Dead Remains:Apart from excavating the burials, these people examine the whole surface area to get the required evidence. They usually dig out the burial place and take out the dead remains present under the surface. They pay attention to every minor and major material obtained from the sites. Even they also pick up the soil from the surface to study its configuration.
  • Analyzing The Sites:After locating the burial sites, these people determine the materials present there and give their readings to the investigation team. These people also determine the presence of bones and classify them as human and animal bones. They reveal the number of skeletons that might have been buried at such sites. Apart from on-site analysis they also collect the evidence from the site and conduct tests on them in the laboratories to further investigate them.
  • Conduct Tests In The Laboratory:The remains and the evidence they collected from the sites are investigated by these people in the laboratories. Various tests and examinations are conducted for the analysis of the dead remains. Through these processes, they make their judgment regarding the skeleton, i.e. whether the remains belong to an animal or it’s of a human.

    These people determine the biological profile like the age and gender of the dead remains. Based on the unique identification features of the deceased like dental patterns, DNA profiling, bone breaks, or lesions of deadly diseases, these people create the profile of the person to whom this skeleton belongs.

  • Determine The Time Since Death:Apart from all the roles mentioned above, they also look for the cause and manner of the death. Based on the analysis of the bones remains found at the burial site, they also give a rough idea regarding an estimated time since the death. This is done by reading the decomposition rate of the skeleton. However, this reading depends on numerous other factors as well. For example, if someone was wearing thick clothes during their burial then their decomposition rate will be less. However, using advanced techniques an estimated time since death can be determined.
  • Present Findings In Courtroom:After analyzing all the possible evidence, dead remains, and the burial sites they prepare the records of the same. And store the findings in the database for future reference. These people present these findings in the court of law and testify to present their explanation for the same. While presenting their findings sometimes they defend the accused and sometimes they support the accused.

Tools Used By Anthropologist:

The task of these people is quite difficult and unique. They need to be cautious while handling the dead remains and the evidence collected from the burials as they are very tender. Their task is all about using forensic tools in such a manner that they get the precise readings for the samples they have. The tools that they use for the investigation process are given below:

  • Shovels,
  • Trowels,
  • Knives,
  • Excavators,
  • Boley gauges,
  • Spreading calipers,
  • X-rays,
  • Computer tomography,
  • MRIs,
  • Geographic information systems (GIS).

Skills Required By A Forensic Anthropologist:

Being specialists in their field, these people require a special set of skills. These skills help them to grow as a professional and learn new things in their career. For a successful career, these skill sets are quite important and we have mentioned them below:

  • Critical thinking,
  • Quantitative reasoning,
  • Decision making and problem solving,
  • Decision making and problem solving,
  • Laboratory practices,
  • Keen observation skills,
  • Computer Proficiency,
  • Excellent interpersonal skills,
  • Verbal and Non-verbal Communication skills, both written and oral,
  • Time management.

Forensic Anthropologist Career Options:

Forensic Anthropologists work in several areas including; private companies providing forensic services, museums, and universities. They have multiple career options. Here we have mentioned the job roles along with the descriptions for these experts in the table below:

Serial No. Job Role Description
1. Professors These people after completing their graduation or post-graduation can work as faculty staff with reputed institutes across India and Abroad.
2. Researchers These experts can also work as researchers for leading industries and can help them through their knowledge and skill set.
3. Anthropology Experts These people can present their findings and can testify in the courtroom presenting their proofs. They also provide their opinion on the assumed evidence presented in the courtroom as proof to defend or accuse the offender.
4. Crime Scene Investigator These people accompany the investigating team and thus help in tracing the burial and determining major factors about the dead remains.

Top Recruiters of Forensic Anthropologists:

Some of the best recruiters for these experts are given below. Candidates can choose the desired industry based on their area of interest.

  • Law Enforcement Agencies,
  • Medical Examiner's Office,
  • Coroner's Office,
  • Museums,
  • Military Offices,
  • Universities,
  • Crime Branches,
  • Police Department.


  • https://naturalhistory.si.edu/ education/teaching-resources/social-studies/forensic-anthropology#:~:text=When 20human%20remains 20or%20a,hard%20 tissues%20such%20as%20bones.
  • https://fac.utk.edu/what -is-forensic-anthropology-2/
  • https://www.britannica.com /science/forensic-anthropology
  • https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/ virtual-library/abstracts/forensic-anthropologist