What is a forensic anthropologist?
Answered by HowStuffWorks
  • HowStuffWorks


  1. They might make the job look exciting on TV, but real-life forensic anthropologists have some tough tasks to do. A forensic anthropologist is someone who assists a criminal investigation by analyzing human remains, providing information concerning the origin and identity of a body as well as how and when someone died. Once a body is found, forensic anthropologists are called in to help collect the remains and take them from the crime scene to a lab to be cleaned and then examined more closely. Because the bones and other remains may be tangled with other bones or matter, the forensic anthropologist has the somewhat grisly job of isolating the remains.

    Because there are so many elements to examine when a body is found, there are many different branches of forensics. For example, odontologists study dental evidence, while entomologists study insect evidence. Different types of forensic specialists often work together, like when an odontologist helps to study a skull to determine the approximate age of human remains [source: Ramsland]. Trying to analyze human remains is tricky because even the most experienced forensic anthropologist may not be able to determine how, for example, a head trauma occurred: Is it the result of an accident years before, or was it caused by a blow to the head from a killer?

    An important role that forensic anthropologists play outside of a lab is in court, as they are often called upon to provide expert testimony to establish their findings for the official record. While their job comes with many tasks, however, there are some common misconceptions about what forensic anthropologists do and do not do. For example, they don't handle DNA analysis, autopsies, analysis of bloodstain patterns or the study of weapons-related evidence.

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