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What Do Forensic Anthropologists Do?

Forensic anthropologists are commonly portrayed in the media as forensic scientists and/or crime scene technicians, but this is not accurate. Forensic anthropologists deal strictly with the human remains. While some people trained in forensic anthropology are also trained in evidence collection techniques, most forensic anthropologists only specialize in techniques related to analysis of the remains.

Generally, forensic anthropologists DO NOT do any of the following:

  • Collect trace evidence (hair, fibers)
  • Run DNA tests
  • Analyze ballistics or weapon evidence
  • Analyze blood spatter
  • Conduct autopsies

What a forensic anthropologist DOES do to aid in a case:

  • Assist law enforcement with the location and recovery of human remains at crime scenes
  • Cleans the bones so that they may be examined
  • Analyze skeletal remains to establish the biological profile of the individual
  • Interpret trauma evident on the bones to establish the type and extent of injuries
  • Works with a forensic odontologist (dentist) to match dental records
  • Testifies in court about the identity of the individual and/or the injuries that might be evident in the skeleton
  • Estimate the time since death