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Forensic Anthropology

             From within the specialized field of osteology, the study of bones, arises a new field of study; forensic anthropology. Forensic anthropology is the application of the science of physical anthropology to the legal process. The identification of skeletal remains badly decomposed, or otherwise unidentified human remains, which are important for both legal and humanitarian reasons. Forensic anthropologists apply standard scientific techniques developed in physical anthropology to identify human remains, and to assist in the detection of crime. Forensic anthropologists frequently work in conjunction with forensic pathologists, odontologists, and homicide investigators to identify a decedent, discover evidence of foul play, and investigate the postmortem stages. In addition to assisting in locating and recovering suspicious remains, forensic anthropologists work to determine the age, sex, ancestry, stature, and unique features of a decedent from the skeleton. Forensic anthropologists help identify individuals who have died in disasters, wars or due to homicide, suicide or accidental death. As the prevalence of violent crimes increases, so does the need and use of forensic anthropology and archaeology. The archaeological exhumination of buried remains has been very helpful in many investigations and the information that can be learned through forensic anthropology has identified victims throughout the world. Not only has it been used in the U.S. and England for criminal investigation but it can also be used in situations with mass burials such as Yugoslavia, some South American countries, such as Guatemala and Argentina, and World War II concentration camps. Criminal investigations are not the only use for this type of study. Information can be learned about past cultures (the burial practices) that can lend it to understanding the likely social organization and sex differentiations in the culture.

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