Anthropometry (Forensic Science)
Anthropometry is the application of a quantified series of measures to the study of the human body with respect to origins, relationships, and individual identity. forensic anthropometry is the application of anthropometrics to human remains—whether victims of accidents, catastrophes, or criminal acts—to identify characteristics and thus help establish personal identities. Anthropometry can be both objective and rigorous when conducted by trained scientists who are familiar with measurement techniques and their subsequent statistical interpretations.
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Scientific Basis (Forensic Science)
The science of anthropometry is based on several premises. First, the body dimensions of each individual represent a subset of unique features that can be used, like fingerprints, for identification purposes. Second, body dimensions provide information regarding additional characteristics such as gender, stature, and, in some cases, ethnicity. Third, body dimensions shed light on health, size, and morphology of internal tissues and organs. Fourth, certain body dimensions and skeletal remains can provide a record of health, accidents, and diseases and permit determination of health at time of death. All of these elements may aid the identification process.
Anthropometry is divided into two subfields: somatometry and osteometry. Somatometry is the measurement of dimensions of the living body, the cadaver, or body fragments. The measurement of the head and face constitutes a special field within somatometry termed cephalometry. Osteometry is the measurement of the bones and distinctive features of bones such as heads of ball joints, protuberances, condyles, articulations, and bone density of the human skeleton. Systematic measurement of the skull is sometimes termed craniometry. Both somatometry and osteometry have been proven useful in the comparison and identification of geographic variation and patterns among human populations in different areas of the world. Anthropometry is especially useful in the sciences of physical...
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History (Forensic Science)
Anthropometry traces its roots to French criminologist Alphonse Bertillon (1853-1914), who reasoned that because no two persons are exactly alike, an individual could be identified on the basis of his or her body dimensions. Beginning in 1882, Bertillon systematically measured various dimensions on the bodies of criminals in Paris jails, including height, length of ear, and length of foot. He laboriously compiled a vast archive of measurements that was successfully used as a guide to identify repeat criminal offenders. The Bertillon system, or bertillonage, as it came to be called, was widely adopted in France and several other European countries.
English scientist Francis Galton (1822-1911) simplified the process originated by Bertillon by reducing the number of body dimensions measured. Galton also introduced the use of fingerprints to identify criminals. The reliability of fingerprints as a means of identification and the ease of fingerprinting were quickly recognized, and fingerprint analysis soon replaced Bertillon’s laborious system of measuring body dimensions as a tool of the criminal justice system.
In the later years of the nineteenth century and well into the early years of the twentieth century, however, anthropologists adopted anthropometrics to compare human races. Although the method was useful at first, anthropometry took a darker turn as some used anthropometric data to suggest that morphological...
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Forensic Applications (Forensic Science)
Although the use of anthropometry in forensic science has been somewhat superseded by the use of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) analysis, anthropometry is still widely used to provide initial identification of human remains in cases of natural disasters, automobile accidents, and catastrophes such as airplane crashes or terrorist attacks. Anthropometry is also helpful in identifying remains that have been deliberately destroyed in an effort to make identification impossible.
Forensic anthropologists must be familiar with both field and laboratory techniques, as they are often among the first to arrive at a site to recover and gather remains for identification. These scientists combine expertise in comparative osteology, human osteology, craniometry, osteometry, and racial morphology as well as skeletal anatomy and function and skeletal proportions characteristic of different geographic areas. Forensic anthropologists work with other crime scene investigators, such as forensic pathologists, to reconstruct the biological nature of individuals at the time of postmortem examinations; they also provide expertise in criminal cases.
Depending on the amount and nature of remains, forensic anthropometry continues to be useful in providing such information as age, gender, health, past injuries, and injuries that may have caused death. Forensic anthropometry has proven especially useful in cases in which only partial remains...
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Further Reading (Forensic Science)
Krogman, Wilton Marion, and Mehmet Yasar Iscan. The Human Skeleton in Forensic Medicine. 2d ed. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C Thomas, 1986. Updated and expanded version of Krogman’s classic work, which was first published in 1962.
Pheasant, Stephen, and Christine M. Haslegrave. Bodyspace: Anthropometry, Ergonomics, and the Design of Work. 3d ed. Boca Raton, Fla.: CRC Press, 2005. Details the many different applications of anthropometrics.
Reichs, Kathleen, ed. Forensic Osteology: Advances in the Identification of Human Remains. 2d ed. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C Thomas, 1998. Collection of essays includes discussions of the history, scope, and specialized methodologies of forensic anthropology, including anthropometry.
Ulijaszek, S. J., and C. G. N. Mascie-Taylor, eds. Anthropometry: The Individual and the Population. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Collection of essays by anthropologists, biologists, clinical scientists, and other experts describes the many ways in which anthropometry is used.
White, Tim D., and Pieter A. Folkens. The Human Bone Manual. Burlington, Mass.: Elsevier Academic Press, 2005. Compact volume offers critical information about skeletal identifications and hundreds of illustrations and photographs. Intended for use by professional anthropologists, forensic scientists, and researchers.
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Anthropometry (World of Forensic Science)
The measurement of the human body, its component parts and relative dimensions, such as body weight, height, length of limbic bones, pelvic bones, skull, etc., is known as anthropometry. The word anthropometry comes from the Greek anthropos, meaning man, plus the word metron, meaning measure. Anthropometry is a scientific tool presently used in several fields including medicine, anthropology, archeology, and forensic science to study and compare relative body proportions among human groups and between genders. For instance, by comparing relative body and bone proportions between two groups of children of the same age, under normal and abnormal conditions, physicians can determine the impact of malnourishment upon the physical development during childhood. Anthropologists compare cranial and body proportions to identify sets of characteristics common to individuals of a given race and the morphological differences among races. Paleontologists are able to tell historical periods using anthropometryuch as whether a set of skeletal remains pertains to a Neanderthal (man, woman, or child) or to a Homo Sapien.
Anthropology is the discipline that has developed anthropometrical comparison studies into a set of reliable standardized data and mathematical formulae, which are now useful for both modern forensic science and archeology. Presently, anthropometry is a well-established forensic technique, which uses anthropological databanks to calculate computational ratios of specific bones and skull features associated with differences between genders and with specific races. For instance, the size and conformation of pelvic bones and skull structures can indicate gender; the length of the long bones of limbs allows the estimation of height. The metric proportions of skull features, given by the size, shape, and relative position of structural bones such as the temporal bones and the mastoid process, superciliary ridge, supraorbital foramen, zygomatic bone, nasal bone, mandible, ocular orbits, etc., may indicate race (Caucasian, Asian, African, or Native American), age (fetus, newborn, child, young adult, etc.), and gender.
When a complete skeleton is available, the level of reliability in establishing sex, age, and race through anthropometrics is almost 100%. Pelvic bones alone offer a 95% reliability, while pelvic bones plus the skull result in an accurate estimation 98% of the time. Sex can be determined by studying the size and shape of some skull bones and by comparing them with the well-established dimorphisms (differences in shape) between human male and female skulls. For instance, the mastoid process, a conic protuberance forming the posterior part of the right and left temporal bones, is large enough in males for the skull to rest on it on the surface of a table. In the female skull, however, the mastoid process will tilt backward to rest on the occipital area or other portions of the skull. This happens because the mastoid process in the female skull is not large enough to keep it in a balanced position on a flat surface. Gender dimorphisms are also found in many other human bones.
Forensic anthropometry may also indicate the nutritional status of an individual, along with existing degenerative diseases or infections at the time of death. Such information may be combined with other kind of circumstantial and forensic data to identify human remains and to determine the cause of death.
Anthropometry was not always considered a true science, however, because it initially gave rise to several political and social pseudo-scientific assumptions, and even to some poorly based medical theories, especially during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Cesare Lombroso (1836908), an Italian physician, published a series of essays, "The Criminal Man" (1875), "Algometrics of the Sane and the Alienated Man" (1878), "The Delinquent Man" (1897), and, in 1900, "The Crime, Causes and Remedies," stating that two types of criminal temperaments existed, the criminoid and the natural-born criminal. Lombroso claimed that some specific anthropometrical body proportions were associated with each type of criminal. According to Lombroso, the natural-born criminal, whose urge to commit crimes was beyond his own will due to a hereditary psychological illness and compulsion, had prominent, long jaws and low eyebrows. The criminoid type of criminal, such as
Paul Broca (1824880), a French surgeon interested in brain morphology, published his anthropometrical studies in his essays "General Instructions for the Anthropological Investigation" and "Craniological and Craniometrical Instructions." Broca declared that women should be denied higher education because their cranial volume was smaller than a man's. According to Broca, the reduced cranial volume of women indicated that human females were less intelligent than males.
Another example of pseudo-scientific use of anthropometrics involved claims by Nazi scientists during World War II (1939945) that they could establish racial profiles of pure Aryan populations, along with profiles of non-Aryans that they considered inferior, on the basis of measurements of skull and facial proportions and other body characteristics.
These unfounded misuses of anthropometrics gave way to more sound scientific approaches after 1950. Besides forensics, anthropometrics are now also used in industry for sizing clothing, machines, and other products to fit the people who use them.
SEE ALSO Anthropology; Osteology and skeletal radiology; Pathology; Pseudoscience and forensics; Sex determination; Sexual dimorphism.