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Determining forensic significance,

Human vs. non-human remains 25/01/2008

So…you found some bones?
• Are they bones?
• Are they human?
• If so, are they forensically significant?
Human vs. Non-Human
• About ¼ of the cases brought to Forensic Anthropologists are non-
• How can we tell?
o Maturity
o Architecture (shape/morphology)
• Key differences:
o Epiphyses
 The developing end of the bone
 Subadult humans have unfused epiphyses
 Adult mammals will have fused epiphyses
• All mammal bones have the same basic composition
• Human bones are shaped differently
• Why?
o Posture and locomotion
 How we stand and move
4 legs vs. 2 legs
• quadruped
o most mammals
o similar bone architecture for 4-legged stance
• biped
o humans only! (for purposes of this class)
o specialized for bipedal stance
• Foramen magnum placement!
o Quadrupeds have them more toward the back
o Humans have then around the center of the skull
• Human
o Vertebrae increase in size
o Short spinous processes
o 3 curves
• Non human
o Uniform size of vertebrae
o Long spinous processes
o 2 curves
Spine Curvature
• Humans
o Cervical lordosis
o Thoracic kyphosis
o Lumbar lordosis
• Human
o Curved and flatter
• Non human
o Straighter and rounder
o May have sternal ribs
 Attach to the sternum
• Human
o Bowl-shaped
o Curved, short ilia
• Non human
o Longer, narrower
o Blade-like ilia
Appendicular Skeleton
• Long bones
o Human
 Long and skinny
o Non human
 Shorter and fat
• Cortical bone
o Human
 Thin
o Non human
 Thick
• Muscle attachments
o Human
 More gracile
o Non human
 Thicker
Human hands vs. Bear paws
• Bones look very similar
• BUT . . .
• Distal phalanges: bears have claws!
• Metacarpals:
o Humans is thicker
o Bears – extra groove
• Sesamoids:
o Really small bones that formed in tendons that help joints
o Humans – two only on THUMB
o Bears – two on ALL digits
“Odd” Bones
• metapodials
o fused carpals and metacarpals or fused tarsals and
o fused metapodials not found in humans at all
• baculum
o penis bone
o found in most mammals
o NOT in humans

Forensic Significance

So…they bones are human

• Are they of Medicolegal importance?
• Contemporary vs. non-contemporary remains
Contemporary vs. Non-Contemporary
• State of preservation
o Outside, buried, how-long
• Body modification
o Any type intentional modification to how a bone looks
o Cranial Modifications

 “cradle boarding”

 prehistoric societies

o Medical Prosthetics

 Plates, screws.

o Dental modifications

 Wear from use

 Aesthetic/surgical practice

 Prehistoric: filing, inlays

 Contemporary: fillings, bridges, caps

• Personal belongings
o What time period and such.
o Prehistoric
 Stone tools, pottery

o Historic

 Historic clothing, jewelry

o Contemporary

 Modern clothing, jewelry

• Conditions of internment
o Is he buried, found in a pile, tossed in the back of a cave
o Body arrangement
o Direction of face
o Pretreatment?
o Burial enclosure
State of Preservation
• How the bone looks (Taphonomy)
o Color
 Usually a yellowish color. After time it turns a bit white,
might get stained.
o Texture
 Fresh bones are smooth. Like ivory. A little bit greasy
from the body fat. Over time it gets a bit rougher.
o Hydration
 Newer bones have more water in it. It will be heavier as
well. Over time water leaks out of the bone. The dryer
the bone the longer the person’s been dead or the bone
has been outside.
o Weight
 Fresh is heavier.
o Condition/fragmentation
o Fragility
 Newer bone more solid. Not as fragile
o Amount of soft tissue

• Measurement of the skeleton

• Subadult age

• Sex

• Ancestry

• Stature

Osteometric devices

• Osteometric board

• Spreading calipers

• Sliding calipers

• Mandibulometer

Osteometric Points

• Standardized landmarks on the skull

• Types

o Unpaired or unpaired

25/01/2008 12:52:00
25/01/2008 12:52:00