Forensic identification criteria for sex, ancestry, stature and age require documented skeletons. Prior to the mid 1980s, forensic identification criteria were based almost exclusively on the large anatomical collections (Terry and Haman-Todd) containing individuals with mainly 19th century birth dates. It cannot be assumed that identification criteria obtained from 19th century skeletons apply to contemporary Americans. Since contemporary documented skeletons are few in number, the Forensic Anthropology Data Bank was conceived as a way to obtain data from contemporary individuals. Forensic anthropologists routinely examine skeletons, usually one at a time, and the remains are returned to families upon identification. Recovering standard data from these forensic cases while they are available could address at least some of our needs regarding identification criteria of contemporary skeletons.
The Forensic Anthropology Data Bank (FDB) was started in 1986 with a grant from the National Institute of Justice. The FDB contains extensive demographic information for many cases, including place of birth, medical history, occupation, stature, and weight. The skeletal information for cases includes cranial and postcranial metrics, suture closure information, various aging criteria scores, non-metric cranial information, perimortem trauma, congenital traits, and dental observations. In addition, we are currently collecting 3D coordinate data for cases that come through The University of Tennessee and other contributing agencies and institutions.
At this writing, the FDB has nearly 3400 cases. Over 2400 are from cases with definite sex and ancestry. Many of these have been measured and sent in by various forensic anthropologists around the country, and we have traveled to various institutions that house sizable collections of contemporary skeletons and measured them ourselves. The 400 cases analyzed by J. Lawrence Angel over a period of 25 years make up the largest single component of the database. Those who have contributed to the FDB have made a major contribution to the understanding of contemporary skeletal variation. Over 100 forensic anthropologists have contributed one or more cases.
What we have learned from the Forensic Anthropology Data Bank is that the American population has changed dramatically. Skeletal change presumably results from the unparalleled environmental changes that have occurred over the past 100 years. They include better nutrition and health and fewer mechanical demands on the skeleton. In addition the composition of the American population continues to change. The Forensic Anthropology Data Bank provides the opportunity to monitor these changes as they occur. The FDB also provides the database for Fordisc 3.0, so that up-to-date ancestry, sex and stature estimation criteria are available in easy to use format. Contributing to the FDB is as important now as it ever was. Though comprised of data from the deceased, the FDB is a living entity and needs new cases to grow. If you get positive identifications of skeletal material, please fill out the Forensic Data Bank forms and send them to us.
We would like to hear from you about your recent forensic cases. If you have data, please complete the Forensic Data Bank forms and mail, email, or fax them to:
Forensic Anthropology Center
The University of Tennessee
250 South Stadium Hall
Knoxville, TN 37996-0720
Data requests or any additional inquiries about the Forensic Data Bank are welcome and should be mailed or emailed to the address listed above.
Data Collection Procedures for Forensic Skeletal Material
- (1994) P.M. Moore-Jansen, S.D. Ousley, and R.L. Jantz. This manual provides standardized recording procedures and general recording formats for the documentation of human skeletal material in a forensic context. Cost: $12.00.