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Forensic Anthropology: Theoretical Framework and Scientific Basis

ISBN: 978-1-119-22638-3
360 pages
March 2018
Forensic Anthropology: Theoretical Framework and Scientific Basis (1119226384) cover image


Provides comprehensive coverage of everything that students and practitioners need to know about working in the field of forensic anthropology

Forensic anthropology has been plagued by questions of scientific validity and rigor despite its acceptance as a section in the American Academy of Forensic Sciences nearly half a century ago. Critics have viewed it as a laboratory-based applied subfield of biological anthropology, and characterised it as emphasising methodology over theory. This book shows that these views are not only antiquated, but inadequate and inaccurate.

Forensic Anthropology: Theoretical Framework and Scientific Basis introduces readers to all of the theoretical and scientific foundations of forensic anthropology — beginning with how it was influenced by the early theoretical approaches of Tyler, Morgan, Spencer and Darwin. It instructs on how modern forensic science relies on an interdisciplinary approach — with research being conducted in the fields of archaeology, physics, geology and other disciplines. This modern approach to theory in forensic anthropology is presented through the introduction and discussion of Foundational, Interpretive and Methodological theories. Sections cover: Bias and Objectivity in Forensic Anthropology Theory and Practice; The Theory and Science Behind Biological Profile and Personal Identification; Scientific Foundation for Interpretations of Antemortem, Perimortem, and Postmortem Processes; and Interdisciplinary Influences, Legal Ramifications and Future Directions.

  • Illustrates important aspects of the theory building process and reflects methods for strengthening the scientific framework of forensic anthropology as a discipline
  • Inspired by the “Application of Theory to Forensic Anthropology” symposium presented at the 67th annual meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences
  • Chapters written by experts in the field who were presenters at the symposium

Forensic Anthropology: Theoretical Framework and Scientific Basis is ideal for university courses in anthropological science, forensic science, criminal science and forensic archaeology.

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Table of Contents

Notes on contributors, xv

Foreword, xxv

Acknowledgments, xxvii

1 The theoretical and scientific foundations of forensic anthropology, 1
C. Clifford Boyd and Donna C. Boyd

1.1 Introduction, 1

1.2 A selective history of theory in forensic anthropology, 2

1.3 A modern perspective on forensic anthropology theory, 5

1.3.1 Three forms of logical reasoning, 8

1.3.2 Theory building in forensic anthropology: Linking logic and theory, 10

1.4 Forensic anthropology theory and modern practice, 12

1.5 Final comments, 15

References, 15

Part 1 Bias and objectivity in forensic anthropology theory and practice, 19

2 Subjective with a capital S? Issues of objectivity in forensic anthropology, 21
Allysha Powanda Winburn

2.1 Introduction, 21

2.2 Objectivity, subjectivity, and forensic anthropological theory, 22

2.3 Subjectivity in science, 24

2.3.1 Subjectivity in forensic anthropology, 24

2.3.2 Effects of bias on forensic anthropology, 25

2.3.3 Subjective science is not bad science, 26

2.4 Mitigated objectivity: A path forward…, 27

2.4.1 Constraining subjectivity and bias, 28

2.4.2 The continuing process of constraint, 33

2.5 Conclusion, 34

References, 34

3 Navigating cognitive bias in forensic anthropology, 39
Michael W. Warren, Amanda N. Friend and Michala K. Stock

3.1 Introduction, 39

3.2 Types of cognitive bias, 40

3.3 Research versus applied science, 41

3.4 Recommended solutions to mitigate confirmation bias, 43

3.5 Challenges unique to forensic anthropology, 44

3.5.1 Anthropologists work in a variety of professional contexts, 44

3.5.2 The uniqueness of the forensic anthropology testing sample, 45

3.5.3 Multiple tests to reach a single conclusion, 45

3.6 An example of how bias affects procedures, 46

3.7 Workable solutions, 49

3.8 Summary, 49

References, 50

4 Theoretically interesting: Different perspectives of the application of theory to forensic anthropology practice and research, 53
Soren Blau

4.1 Introduction, 53

4.2 Practising in context, 56

4.3 Ethical considerations for the development of theory, 58

4.4 Can theories be applied universally?, 59

4.5 Conclusion, 59

Acknowledgements, 61

References, 61

Part 2 The theory and science behind biological profile and personal identification, 65

5 From Blumenbach to Howells: The slow, painful emergence of theory through forensic race estimation, 67
Stephen Ousley, Richard L. Jantz and Joseph T. Hefner

5.1 Introduction, 67

5.2 Race as a concept and theory, 68

5.2.1 Evolution, rather than race, explains human biological variation, 70

5.2.2 Human variation is continuous, 72

5.2.3 Human biological variation involves many traits that typically vary independently, 73

5.2.4 Genetic variation within so ]called races is much greater than the variation among them, 74

5.2.5 There is no way to consistently classify human beings by race, 75

5.3 Anthropology and race, 79

5.4 Forensic anthropology and race, 85

5.5 Race and the future, 90

Acknowledgments, 92

References, 92

6 The application of theory in skeletal age estimation, 99
Natalie R. Langley and Beatrix Dudzik

6.1 Introduction, 99

6.2 Skeletal age, 101

6.3 Historical context, 101

6.4 Forensic anthropology and evolutionary biology, 102

6.5 Potential solutions to the problem of age estimation, 105

6.6 Final comments, 107

References, 109

7 Theory and histological methods, 113
Christian M. Crowder, Deborrah C. Pinto, Janna M. Andronowski and Victoria M. Dominguez

7.1 Introduction, 113

7.2 Foundational theory in bone biology, 114

7.3 Interpretive theory in bone biology, 115

7.3.1 Form and function, 115

7.3.2 The mechanostat and Utah paradigm, 116

7.3.3 Exploring the effectors of the mechanostat, 117

7.4 Methodological theory in bone biology, 119

7.4.1 Histological age estimation, 120

7.4.2 Determining human versus nonhuman bone, 121

7.5 Conclusions, 122

References, 123

8 Forensic applications of isotope landscapes (“isoscapes”): A tool for predicting region ]of ]origin in forensic anthropology cases, 127
Lesley A. Chesson, Brett J. Tipple, James R. Ehleringer, Todd Park and Eric J. Bartelink

8.1 Introduction, 127

8.2 What are isotopes?, 128

8.3 Why do isotope compositions of human tissues differ?, 129

8.3.1 Hydrogen and oxygen isotopes, 130

8.3.2 Strontium isotopes, 130

8.3.3 Carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur isotopes, 132

8.4 How do we interpret isotope data collected for forensic human identification?, 133

8.4.1 Oxygen isotopes in drinking water and hair keratin, 134

8.4.2 Oxygen isotopes in drinking water and skeletal bioapatite, 137

8.4.3 Strontium isotopes of local bedrock and skeletal remains, 138

8.5 Examples of the application of isotope analysis to unidentified remains, 139

8.5.1 Jane Doe from Salt Lake County, 139

8.5.2 Isolated mandible from Siskiyou County, 141

8.6 What are the future applications of isotope analysis?, 144

Acknowledgments, 144

References, 145

Part 3 Scientific foundation for interpretations of antemortem, perimortem, and postmortem processes, 149

9 The anatomical basis for fracture repair: Recognition of the healing continuum and its forensic applications to investigations of pediatric and elderly abuse, 151
Donna C. Boyd

9.1 Introduction: Diagnosing pediatric and elderly non ]accidental injury, 151

9.2 Theoretical basis for antemortem healing and TSI estimation, 153

9.3 Anatomical basis for fracture healing, 154

9.3.1 Bone growth and development, 155

9.3.2 Fracture healing, 157

9.4 Factors affecting the rate of bone healing, 162

9.4.1 The biological profile (age, sex, ancestry), 162

9.4.2 Type, location, cause, severity, and number of injuries, 163

9.4.3 Injury treatment and local biomechanical factors, 164

9.4.4 Systemic and other factors, 165

9.5 Antemortem fracture healing stages and dating systems, 166

9.6 A new model for fracture repair, 174

9.7 Expanding and refining TSI estimation through the Antemortem Fracture Archive, 181

9.8 Theory and the future of TSI estimation, 184

References, 184

Appendix A, 195

Major fracture repair stages and TSI estimations, 195

10 Theoretical foundation of child abuse, 201
Jennifer C. Love and Miriam E. Soto Martinez

10.1 Introduction, 201

10.2 Case study, 201

10.3 Anthropologists and child abuse, 202

10.4 Foundational theory, 203

10.5 Interpretive theory, 204

10.5.1 Bone biomechanics, 205

10.5.2 Motor skill development, 207

10.6 Methodological theory, 207

10.7 Conclusion, 209

References, 209

11 Bone trauma analysis in a forensic setting: Theoretical basis and a practical approach for evaluation, 213
Hugh E. Berryman, John F. Berryman and Tiffany B. Saul

11.1 Introduction, 213

11.2 Theory, 214

11.2.1 Foundational theory, 215

11.2.2 Interpretive theory, 216

11.2.3 Methodological theory, 217

11.3 Fundamental principles in bone fracture interpretation, 218

11.4 A practical approach to bone trauma evaluation and hypothesis building, 226

11.5 Conclusion, 232

References, 232

12 Thinking outside the box: Theory and innovation in sharp trauma analysis, 235
John A. Williams and Ronald W. Davis

12.1 Introduction, 235

12.2 Transfer of evidence, 235

12.3 Theory connections, 236

12.4 The human skeleton as transfer evidence, 237

12.5 A primer on saws and dismemberment, 238

12.6 Geographic information system, 240

12.7 Applications of GIS in forensic anthropology and human osteology, 241

12.8 GIS: innovation in cut mark striation interpretation, 242

12.9 Locard and the twenty ]first century: It’s all a matter of scale, 247

References, 248

13 The forensic anthropologist as broker for cross ]disciplinary taphonomic research related to estimating the postmortem interval in medicolegal death investigations, 251
Daniel J. Wescott

13.1 Introduction, 251

13.2 Taphonomy and taphonomic theory, 252

13.3 Forensic taphonomy, 254

13.4 Taphonomy and the estimation of time since death, 255

13.5 The necrobiome, 256

13.6 Cross ]disciplinary research, 257

13.6.1 Need for cross ]disciplinary research in PMI estimation, 257

13.6.2 Cross ]disciplinary approaches, 258

13.7 Overcoming barriers to cross ]disciplinary research, 262

13.8 Forensic anthropologists as brokers for unified theories in forensic taphonomy, 264

13.8.1 Forensic anthropologists are already major players, 264

13.8.2 Anthropologists have a long history of conducting taphonomic research, 264

13.8.3 Anthropology is traditionally a holistic field, 265

13.8.4 Forensic anthropology has its roots in academic research, 265

13.9 Conclusions, 265

Acknowledgments, 266

References, 266

Part 4 Interdisciplinary influences, legal ramifications, and future directions, 271

14 Archaeological inference and its application to forensic anthropology, 273
C. Clifford Boyd and William W. Baden

14.1 Introduction, 273

14.2 Agency and nonlinear systems theories, 274

14.3 Nonlinear modeling of the decomposition process, 277

14.4 Discussion, 284

References, 292

15 Arrows of influence: The give and take of theory between forensic anthropology, archaeology, and geophysics, 297
John F. Schweikart and Cheryl A. Johnston

15.1 Introduction, 297

15.2 Influences of archaeology on forensic anthropology, 299

15.3 Influences of geophysics on forensic anthropology, 301

15.4 “Backflow” to other disciplines: Site formation processes in archaeology, 302

15.5 Backflow: Interpretation/understanding of geophysical signatures, 303

15.6 Conclusion, 305

References, 305

16 Forensic anthropology, scientific evidence, and the law: Why theory matters, 307
Donna C. Boyd and C. Clifford Boyd

16.1 Introduction: Theory in practice, 307

16.1.1 Commonwealth of Virginia v Morgan Lockett: Why theory matters, 307

16.2 Science and the law: The disconnect, 309

16.3 Science and the law: Commonalities, 310

16.3.1 Legal and scientific dialogue, 310

16.3.2 Abductive reasoning, 311

16.3.3 Probabilistic evaluation of the strength of evidence, 312

16.4 Forensic anthropologists as expert witnesses, 315

16.5 Admissibility of forensic anthropology evidence in the post ]Daubert world, 316

16.6 The legal application of forensic anthropology: Why theory matters, 318

16.7 Final comments, 319

Acknowledgments, 320

References, 320

17 Epilogue: Theory and science in forensic anthropology: Avenues for further research and development, 325
C. Clifford Boyd and Donna C. Boyd

17.1 The science of forensic anthropology, 325

17.2 Looking forward, 327

References, 328


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Author Information

C. Clifford Boyd, Jr., Ph.D, RPA, is currently a Professor of Anthropological Sciences at Radford University, Virginia, Co-Director of the RU Forensic Science Institute, and Consultant for the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Donna C. Boyd, Ph. D., D-ABFA, is Eminent Professor of Anthropological Sciences at Radford University, Co-Director of the RU Forensic Science Institute, Professor of Biomedical Science at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, and Consultant for the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

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