Exhumed Bones

Exhumed bones

R.C.M.P.

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Forensic Anthropology is the study of bones or other human remains. The forensic anthropologist can determine if bones/body parts are human or non-human, how long they have been there, the cause and manner of death, the age, the "race", the sex and the physical characteristics of an individual. All of this can be done by careful examination of the remaining bones, tissue and other items that may be found at the crime scene. The leaves under a body or the pollen on the clothes may indicate that a body was buried at a certain time of year. If the pollen is from a distant area, the type of pollen may be important to investigators.
Forensic Anthropology is the study of bones or other human remains. The forensic anthropologist can determine if bones/body parts are human or non-human, how long they have been there, the cause and manner of death, the age, the "race", the sex and the physical characteristics of an individual. All of this can be done by careful examination of the remaining bones, tissue and other items that may be found at the crime scene. The leaves under a body or the pollen on the clothes may indicate that a body was buried at a certain time of year. If the pollen is from a distant area, the type of pollen may be important to investigators.

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Forensic science also uses anthropology to determine the cause of death from remains. The remains may be severely degraded leaving only a few bones. The forensic anthropologist and his/her team must be very careful in collecting any remains, as even the smallest bone fragment may show the cause of death. For example, if a rib bone is chipped and the pattern on the bone matches the toolmarks of a suspect’s knife, this evidence may be incriminating.
Forensic science also uses anthropology to determine the cause of death from remains. The remains may be severely degraded leaving only a few bones. The forensic anthropologist and his/her team must be very careful in collecting any remains, as even the smallest bone fragment may show the cause of death. For example, if a rib bone is chipped and the pattern on the bone matches the toolmarks of a suspect’s knife, this evidence may be incriminating.

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Teeth are the hardest substances in the body. Long after the flesh, organs and even bone have been degraded, teeth may still give clues as to the identity of an individual. Dental remains can still be used for identification after one and a half hours at almost 1,000 degrees celcius, or after 5 days inside a shark’s stomach!

Dental records from the victim’s dentist office may be compared for identification. Hospital records, molds for dentures or photographs may also be used for matching. Methods used for identification include photographs, radiographs (X-rays), dental charting, dental impressions, preservation of oral structures (i.e. dentures or braces), jaw articulation and occlusal analysis and DNA analysis. Dentures, for example, may contain mold numbers on the back of the denture teeth that can assist in identification.

Children may not have any dental records, but they may have misshapen teeth. Under the age of five years, it is often difficult to find dental records of children. However, DNA samples may be of great use. The number of adult/juvenile teeth that have penetrated the skin (erupted) can also serve as a rough guide to the age of Read More
Teeth are the hardest substances in the body. Long after the flesh, organs and even bone have been degraded, teeth may still give clues as to the identity of an individual. Dental remains can still be used for identification after one and a half hours at almost 1,000 degrees celcius, or after 5 days inside a shark’s stomach!

Dental records from the victim’s dentist office may be compared for identification. Hospital records, molds for dentures or photographs may also be used for matching. Methods used for identification include photographs, radiographs (X-rays), dental charting, dental impressions, preservation of oral structures (i.e. dentures or braces), jaw articulation and occlusal analysis and DNA analysis. Dentures, for example, may contain mold numbers on the back of the denture teeth that can assist in identification.

Children may not have any dental records, but they may have misshapen teeth. Under the age of five years, it is often difficult to find dental records of children. However, DNA samples may be of great use. The number of adult/juvenile teeth that have penetrated the skin (erupted) can also serve as a rough guide to the age of a person. The amount of mineral build up on the teeth is another method used to determine age.

Remains from mass graves or aircraft wreckage sites may require identification from the forensic odontologist. It is often the case where bones and teeth are mixed together, complicating the identification of human remains. Here, several methods and a team of forensic odontologists may serve to identify the remains.

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DNA typing is the most accurate method for identifying an individual. Before DNA testing is done, all other identification using the intact teeth should be completed. This is because the materials required for DNA typing are contained within the soft pulp located within the coronal pulp chamber, root canals and accessory canals. PCR (polymerase chain reaction) is used to make multiple copies of the sequence of the DNA for comparison against a known sample. Mitochondrial DNA typing is done for forensic odontology. For further explanation of DNA typing techniques see section on DNA.
DNA typing is the most accurate method for identifying an individual. Before DNA testing is done, all other identification using the intact teeth should be completed. This is because the materials required for DNA typing are contained within the soft pulp located within the coronal pulp chamber, root canals and accessory canals. PCR (polymerase chain reaction) is used to make multiple copies of the sequence of the DNA for comparison against a known sample. Mitochondrial DNA typing is done for forensic odontology. For further explanation of DNA typing techniques see section on DNA.

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Bite marks may be compared to dental impressions, photographs, traces and models. Even if bite marks are not matched to an individual, the saliva left behind on a bite mark may be used for DNA analysis to find the identity of the perpetrator.
Bite marks may be compared to dental impressions, photographs, traces and models. Even if bite marks are not matched to an individual, the saliva left behind on a bite mark may be used for DNA analysis to find the identity of the perpetrator.

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Skull of Raoul Delorme, 1928

Skull of Raoul Delorme, 1928.

Musée de la civilisation

© Musée de la civilisation. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Develop enthusiasm and continuing interest in the study of science
  • Define forensic anthropology and odontology
  • Describe how anthropology and odontology are used to solve crimes
  • Describe an example of the application of technology in society

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