The authors of this article discuss the role of forensic anthropology in light of technological advancements, including topics such as quantitative methods, medicolegal casework, human identification, skeletal and genetic analysis, remains recovery, and forensic practices considering diverse populations.
While forensic anthropology is often characterized as an applied science, it is deeply rooted in the larger discipline of biological anthropology. Forensic practitioners work to extend the theory of, and methods for, the study of human variation to the medicolegal context, and therefore continue to address the fundamental questions of topics critical to biological anthropology, such as the degree and distribution of skeletal and genetic diversity and the effects of environment and life history on morphological expression, just as we seek to infer the demographic parameters of sex, age, and ancestry that allow us to broadly characterize modern peoples. In speaking for the single person, however, forensic anthropologists are uniquely challenged with the issue of scale. Forensic anthropologists must distill approaches (or methods) of biological anthropology for the detection and documentation of populational trends to the level of the individual forensic case as we reconstruct the biological profile and address the personal identity concerns that dominate the forensic anthropological analysis of unknown human remains. In concert with this change in scope, forensic anthropologists must also contend with a refocusing of perspective toward the investigative and judicial system. At once, we are expected to respond to the dynamic needs of individual identification in the service of human rights, social justice, and the medicolegal community, the increasing demands for scientific rigor in case analysis and reporting, and the changing expectations for admissible evidence and expert testimony in the courtroom. (Publisher Abstract Provided)