The role of forensic anthropology in disaster victim identification (DVI): recent developments and future prospects

Hans H. de Boer, Soren Blau, Tania Delabarde, Lucina Hackman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)
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Forensic anthropological knowledge has been used in disaster victim identification (DVI) for over a century, but over the past decades there have been a number of disaster events which have seen an increasing role for the forensic anthropologist. The experiences gained from some of the latest DVI operations have provided valuable lessons that have had an effect on the role and perceived value of the forensic anthropologist as part of the team managing the DVI process. This paper provides an overview of the ways in which forensic anthropologists may contribute to DVI with emphasis on how recent experiences and developments in forensic anthropology have augmented these contributions. Consequently, this paper reviews the value of forensic anthropological expertise at the disaster scene and in the mortuary, and discusses the way in which forensic anthropologists may use imaging in DVI efforts. Tissue-sampling strategies for DNA analysis, especially in the case of disasters with a large amount of fragmented remains are also discussed. Additionally, consideration is given to the identification of survivors; the statistical basis of identification; the challenges related to some specific disaster scenarios; and education and training. Although forensic anthropologists can play a valuable role in different phases of a DVI operation, they never practice in isolation. The DVI process requires a multidisciplinary approach and therefore, close collaboration with a range of forensic specialists.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-315
Number of pages13
JournalForensic Sciences Research
Issue number4
Early online date2 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2018


  • Forensic science
  • forensic anthropology
  • disaster victim
  • human identification
  • mass fatality
  • Bayes
  • radiology
  • dead body management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Anthropology
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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