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Dr. William M. Bass established the Forensic Anthropology Center in 1987. Beginning with a modest spot of land for the Anthropology Research Facility, the Forensic Anthropology Center has grown into a leading institution for forensic anthropology research and training. Our resources and facilities include the Anthropology Research Facility, a dynamic body donation program, the Bass Donated Skeletal Collection, the McCormick Skeletal Collection, professional trianing courses and much more. These resources are available to students, researchers, and law enforcement agencies.

NOTE: We do not provide tours of our Outdoor Research Facility.

The purpose of the Forensic Anthropology Center is to provide research, training and service with compassion. The body donation program is the heart and soul of the Forensic Anthropology Center, and we ensure that all of the families and donors are treated with the utmost respect and compassion. The donation program enables individuals to contribute to science in a direct and meaningful way.

Each donor is of tremendous scientific value and we are grateful to our donors and their families

Mission Statement

The mission of the Forensic Anthropology Center is to achieve excellence in research, training, and service in forensic anthropology and closely-related fields.1

The mission is pursued in part by actively engaging scientists, institutions and agencies in research and training for students and professionals worldwide. Additionally, we serve the community via our body donation program, consultations to the medico-legal community, and outreach to promote science and disseminate our research results.

For over three decades the FAC has garnered an international reputation for research on human decomposition and modern human variation. At the core of our program is the dynamic body donation program that currently comprises more than one thousand individuals in the Bass Collection and over 3400 registered future donors (pre-donors).

1Refer to the American Board of Forensic Anthropology for the definition of forensic anthropology.


  • The Anthropology Research Facility is the first of its kind to permit systematic study of human decomposition. The 1.3 acres of land made famous by Dr. Bass recently expanded to approximately 2 acres. This addition provides space for studies using advanced technology to quantify how bodies interact with the environment.
  • The skeletal collections provide unparalleled opportunities to study modern human skeletal variation, pathology and trauma. The hallmark of these collections is the Bass Donated Skeletal Collection that now consists of over 1300 individuals, the largest collection of contemporary human skeletons in the United States.
  • The Forensic Data Bank (FDB) contains data on over 3400 forensic cases in the U.S. and has recently expanded to include contemporary individuals from Central and South America, Europe and Asia. The FDB has been instrumental in documenting change within the human population.
  • Most of the collections and facilities are available to qualified researchers. See the research page and contact Dawnie Steadman for further information.


  • The FAC offers several professional development courses to the anthropological community. These courses make use of many of the collections, the new Bass Building, and the Anthropology Research Facility.
  • The FAC provides specialty courses throughout the year for several agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Kentucky Criminalistic Academy. For more information on agency-specific course development, please contact Giovanna Vidoli


  • The FAC faculty and staff provide forensic anthropological services (e.g., skeletal analysis, body recovery, etc.) to a variety of medico-legal agencies.
  • Faculty, staff and graduate students provide lectures to civic groups, school-age children, and the general public to promote science and disseminate our research results.

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