Ancestry Estimation: Advances and Limitations in Forensic Applications

Despoina E. Flouri, Angeliki Alifragki1, Julieta Gómez García-Donas, Elena F. Kranioti (Lead / Corresponding author)

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Forensic anthropologists are faced with many challenges one of which is setting the grounds for the assessment of an unknown individual’s population affinity, an essential element for building a biological profile that can lead to positive identification. A heavy body of literature is dealing with the topic of “race” – in early studies – or “ancestry/population affinity” – in more recent articles – in an effort to provide reliable tools for this challenging task. A great and ongoing debate exists on whether this type of classification should be done at all or whether it should be accepted as a “necessary evil”. The over-simplistic categorization of people originating from vast geographical areas without taking into account micro-evolutionary and environmental factors, that are of great importance and influence population affinity, can greatly enhance social discrimination and stigma. On the other hand, it must be stressed that the point of assessing an individual’s ancestry or geographic origin in a forensic context is not a matter of taxonomy or population labeling but rather an asset to the identification process, which can help narrow down possible matches from a missing persons’ list. In that vein, the current paper offers an overview of different methodological approaches to the matter of ancestry estimation and aims to gather relevant information about the different approaches used, the current advances and the implications of the assessment regarding positive identification.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-24
Number of pages12
JournalResearch and Reports in Forensic Medical Science
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2022


  • ancestry
  • population affinity
  • biological variation
  • forensic anthropology
  • estimation


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