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The Combination of Cranial Morphoscopic and Dental Morphological Methods to Improve the Forensic Estimation of Ancestry

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Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2016, $31,974)

As submitted by the proposer: The goal of forensic anthropology is the identification of unknown human remains in the medico-legal context. Forensic anthropologists have recently taken up the mantle of quantifying many of their traditional methods to ensure repeatability and known rates of error. The goals of this research are: 1) to incorporate newly standardized cranial and dental traits with those currently in use, expanding the suite of traits available to forensic anthropologists in the estimation of ancestry; 2) to demonstrate that the inclusion of dental morphology in forensic estimates of ancestry will improve the accuracy of those estimates; and 3) to provide a means of more accurately estimating ancestry using statistics not widely employed in forensic anthropology. Traits will be recorded from a sample of modern North American individuals. The recorded traits will be checked for intraobserver error, utility in estimating ancestry, and in building classificatory models using nonparametric methods appropriate to morphoscopic and morphological data. In light of the 2009 NAS/NRC report on the state of forensic anthropology in the United States, and the requirements for evidence admissibility in the medico-legal system the development of methods that provide standardization and quantification of traits is more important than ever. The inclusion of dental morphology in this research allows for estimations of ancestry to be drawn from a larger pool of data, and to be made when some traditional indicators of ancestry are not available. Furthermore, this research proposes standard definitions, methods of recording, and offers previously unavailable data on the distribution of traits widely used in the estimation of ancestry. The impacts of this research are directly tied to the improvement of forensic anthropology. The forensic sciences are of interest to the American public, and therefore are under particular scrutiny. Developing reliable and defensible forensic methods will not only improve forensic sciences from a scientific stand point, but also the public perception of the forensic sciences as a whole. The presentation of this research to the public provides an opportunity to contribute to their scientific literacy. The use of this sample allows for the maintenance of bonds between international forensic science communities, through the inclusion of a Guatemalan sample. Finally, this research examines a Hispanic sample, which addresses a growing need of forensic anthropology in the United States. As Hispanic populations comprise a growing sector of the American population, methods for the identification of these individuals are needed in the medico-legal context. Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law. ca/ncf
Date Created: July 17, 2016