Crime & Punishment

Forensic Anthropology

Today, forensic anthropology is a well-established discipline within the forensic field. Anthropologists are called upon to investigate skeletal remains and to help identify individuals from bones when other physical characteristics which could be used to identify a body no longer exist.

Forensic Anthropology

Forensic anthropologists work in conjunction with forensic pathologists to identify remains based on their skeletal characteristics.

The methods used to identity a person from a skeleton relies on the past contributions of various anthropologists and the study of human skeletal differences. Through the collection of thousands of specimens and the analysis of differences within a population, estimations of age and sex can be made based on physical characteristics. Through these, a set of remains can potentially be identified. The field of forensic anthropology grew during the twentieth century into a fully recognized forensic speciality involving trained anthropologists as well as numerous research institutions gathering data on decomposition and the effects it can have on the skeleton.

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Crime & Punishment

This almost complete skeleton was recovered from the cemetery of St. Owen’s church, in Gloucester and dates to the late medieval period. The anthropological examination showed that the remains belonged to a young male, between the ages of 17 and 19 years.

The young man also had antemortem pathologies that were related to his diet and lifestyle, as he appears to have suffered from iron-deficiency anaemia and Schmorl’s nodes (spinal disease). The trauma observed on the remains consisted of three cut marks located on the braincase, left arm and right shoulder.

The cuts seem to have been inflicted by a heavy weapon. The trauma pattern observed is consistent with defensive action and the fact that this skeleton was the only one in the collection that has evidence of trauma suggest that this was a case of interpersonal violence rather than a war grave.

The Evidence

The bones of this skeleton show evidence of a vicious crime, with cut marks located on the braincase, left arm and right shoulder. The cuts seem to have been inflicted by a heavy weapon. The trauma pattern observed is consistent with a defensive action.

You can look at the 3D models of these bones and examine the evidence that a forensic anthropologist would focus on, when there was a suspicion of a crime.

A paper on the case of this victim was published by Valoriani and colleagues in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology.

forensic skull
cranium model

Crime & Punishment // Cranium

The skull of the young murder victim shows signs of heavy blows to the head with a sharp instrument.

scapulaModel

Crime & Punishment // Scapula

The scapula is the shouderblade. This is a thin bone that sits on your back and has muscle attachments for the arm, neck and back muscles.

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Crime & Punishment // Radius

This bone is the radius. It is one of the two lower arm bones. This bone is complete but bears a big cutmark near the wrist.

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The Murder Weapon

The skeleton that belongs to this young man in Gloucester shows distinct signs of a violent attack, that led to his untimely death. The trauma observed on the remains consisted of three cut marks located on the braincase, left arm and right shoulder.

After watching Dr Matteo Borrini describe the wounds inflcited upon the body of the victim, and examining the 3D Models, think about what kind of weapon could have inflicted these wounds, and choose one:

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DigiArt Project is funded by the European Commision under grant number 665066

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