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A Dental Anthropological Databank for Use in the Statistical Estimation of Ancestry and Sex in Forensic Anthropology

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2017, $422,514)

As submitted by the proposer:

Within forensic anthropological analyses, the dentition are commonly overlooked as a source of data for the estimation of the biological profile, despite their extensive use in other realms of biological anthropology. Much is known about the heritability, population variation, sexual dimorphism, secular change, evolution, and development of tooth morphology and size. Moreover, teeth tend to preserve well when other skeletal elements do not. As such, they are particularly well-suited to forensic anthropological analyses and can greatly aid in improving overall accuracies of sex and ancestry estimations. This research seeks to remedy this disconnect in the field by incorporating dental data into forensic anthropological practice.

The first part of this project will involve data collection on standard and novel morphological and metric dental traits in modern populations across the globe. Once data are collected, statistical analyses will be conducted to assess population and sex-based variation in these traits, and models will be created to estimate the sex and ancestry of an individual set of unidentified remains. The models will then be validated using data from modern forensic cases encountered in Medical Examiner’s offices. After model validation, a web-based program will be created that will provide statistical estimations of ancestry and sex based on dental data that can be used by the forensic anthropologist in casework.

The final products of this analysis will be (1) a large databank of dental data based on modern and archaeological samples, (2) a referential database that can be used in the collection of dental data, and (3) a statistical program that will estimate ancestry and sex based on these dental data that can be used in forensic casework in the United States. All of which will be made freely available. The creation of these products will allow for ease of future data collection and research in both an applied and academic setting.

Finally, the statistical program based on dental data will offer a broader view of ancestry and sex as reflected in the skeletal phenotype, which will provide forensic anthropologists with more accurate estimates of these components of the biological profile. Such methods are necessary to fulfill the requirements of expert testimony in a court of law (as per the Daubert standard) and will be welcomed by the field as providing an additional avenue of investigation in cases of both complete and fragmentary remains.

Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law, and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14).


Date Created: September 29, 2017