The Role of Forensic Anthropology in Cases of Dismemberment

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It is generally accepted that the primary role for a forensic anthropologist in the investigation of any suspicious death is to assist with the identification of the remains. This usually manifests through the provision of a biological profile that can be utilized subsequently to search missing persons’ databases or be released to the public in an attempt to secure the personal identity of the deceased (Black and Ferguson, 2011; Blau and Ubelaker, 2011). However, the anthropologist’s expertise, particularly in the anatomical identification of body parts and small fragments, ensures that they can also provide invaluable insights when the remains require to be identified and re-associated anatomically through physical reconstruction of the deceased (Reichs, 1998; Walsh-Haney, 1999; Iscan, 2001; Bilge et al., 2003; Cattaneo, 2007; Quatrehomme, 2007; Dirkmaat et al., 2008). The anthropologist may also have views that can assist in reaching conclusions regarding both the manner and the chronological progression of criminal dismemberment as well as proffering an expert opinion on the likely experience of the perpetrator. Indeed, many anthropologists will also be confident to provide comment on the class characteristics of tools likely utilized in the dismemberment, and a detailed discussion of this aspect will be addressed later in this text. The anthropologist will also have an opinion on how best to clean the skeletal remains for subsequent analysis, and there are a variety of options in this regard. This chapter will touch on all of the above aspects where the forensic anthropologist can provide assistance in the investigation of cases of criminal dismemberment.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCriminal Dismemberment
Subtitle of host publicationForensic and Investigative Analysis
EditorsSue Black, Guy Rutty, Sarah V. Hainsworth, Grant Thomson
Place of PublicationBoca Raton
PublisherCRC Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781482236293
ISBN (Print)9781482236286
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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