Injuries and Cause of Death
By X-raying skeletal remains, it may be possible to obtain information that could lead to both establishing a cause of death and even identifying an individual. There may be evidence of injuries obtained earlier in life that have left noticeable markings on the bones, for instance fractures and breakages or even the presence of artificial bones. Furthermore, there may be evidence of bone disease such as osteoporosis. Studying the teeth of the remains may provide important clues, particularly if the individual had any distinguishing dental features or dental work such as fillings carried out. All of this information may be compared to the medical records of known individuals to aid in confirming or disputing the identity of the skeletonised remains. Dental records in particular often prove beneficial in identifying an individual who cannot be identified by any other means, providing they have had dental work carried out and have some dental records stored somewhere.
Another interesting thing is that the forensic anthropologist is the one responsible for taking care of the ‘body farm’, an outdoor field laboratory analyzing post mortem change and degradation. The body farm serves the purpose of studying human decomposition in varied circumstances, to study and better understand the decomposition process in the purpose of extracting information. However, there are only several of them located throughout the world – it is best to start early and search for a forensic anthropology school which will offer thorough guidance and opportunities.
Accreditation of forensic practitioners in the UK has gained momentum in recent years although it has proven to be more challenging to achieve for the independent practitioner. This is true for the discipline of forensic anthropology and to address this, the British Association for Forensic Anthropology was formed in 2011. This association has undergone an intensive period of standard setting and validation in partnership with the Royal Anthropological Institute as its professional body. The RAI has a Forensic Anthropology Committee whose main role is to provide oversight of the professional accreditation process.