Forensic Anthropology: Human Remains
and the Law
Forensic anthropology is the medicolegal application of biological
anthropological methods, generally pertaining to the identification of
human remains. When badly decomposed, burned, and skeletonized remains
are discovered, a forensic anthropologist is usually called in by law
enforcement officials to help establish identity and aid in
ascertaining time and manner of death. Forensic anthropologists
maintain a skill set different from that of the average forensic
pathologist, one that cross-cuts human osteology, archaeology, and
comparative vertebrate anatomy.
The course begins with an overview of the history of forensic
anthropology and a review of human osteology, in particular, we focus
on the growth, structure, and histology of the human skeleton.
Next, we consider the methods used by forensic anthropologists to aid
in personal identification -- the determination of age, sex, stature,
and ancestry, and the identification of occupational markers, evidence
of medical history, and indications of perimortem trauma. The
role of the forensic anthropologist in the recovery of remains and
crime scene investigation are explored, and we examine the role of the
specialists with whom they interact, such as crime investigators,
forensic odontologists, forensic entomologists, and forensics
pathologists. Lastly, we consider the role of forensic anthropologist
as expert witness and the laws pertaining to the treatment of human
Jolee West, Ph.D.
170 Science Library
- Steven Byers, Introduction to Forensic Anthropology,
Allyn & Bacon,
Suggested Authors for Forensic Fiction (Leisure Reading)
- Kathy Reichs (her protagonist, Temperance Brennan, is a forensic
- Aaron Elkins (his protagonist, Gideon Oliver, is a Professor of
- Iris Johansen (her protagonist, Eve Duncan, is a forensic
sculptor; her work is heavy on the romance)
- Michael Ondaatje (specifically, Anil's Ghost : A Novel,
in which the protagonist is a forensic anthropologist)
In a tour of the
Connecticut Forensic Science Laboratory in Meriden, we will get a
personal introduction to people on the job and the practices they use
to solve Connecticut crimes.
The date and time of this trip will be determined after class meets
so as to arrange the most convenient time for all enrolled.
Students will be evaluated based on classroom
discussion/participation (10%), graded case-oriented analyses (30%),
and a research paper concerning a topic relevant to this course.
The paper should be problem-oriented. I will provide a list of
possible paper topics, or help you define your own, based on your
personal interests. The paper assignment is broken down into three
separately graded assignments:
- The formulation of the paper topic and argument, a rough
outline, and a list of at least 5 references. (10%)
- The not-so-rough draft. Treat this draft as though it's what
you would hand in as a final draft. It should be very complete.
- The final draft (submitted paper). (30%)
We will be using
Blackboard, the online course management system for announcements,
communications, document distribution (background info, lectures, news
stories), and assignment submission. You can log into Blackboard from
Portfolio . You MUST know your Wesleyan email username and
password to get into your Portfolio.
If the Portfolio is ever down, you can still access Blackboard by