The scope of Forensic Anthropology is increasing everyday. The preference of many killers to dump the bodies of their victims in remote sites means that most often the police have nothing but skeletal remains to aid in their investigation. It is then left to the forensic Anthropologist to use this flimsy evidence to shed some light on the case with his expertise.
Anthropology in Forensics deals with the study of skeletal remains in order to aid in a legal investigation. A few pieces of bones are all that a forensic Anthropologist trained in Osteology (the study of bones) needs to determine whether the evidence is at all human and if so the gender, age, physique and race of the person.
Anthropological evidence can also yield other clues like the approximate time of death (a piece of information that assumes vital importance when you have alibis in hand), the cause of death and even what illnesses and injuries the person might have suffered in his lifetime.
To elaborate, say the law enforcement officers are called upon to probe into the findings of skeletal remains. The Forensic Anthropologist has his work cut out for him. He has to first determine whether the bones at all belong to a human being. Next he has to determine the age, sex and approximate time of death. Without these pivotal bits of information, the investigation is practically stalled because this knowledge alone will help the police form some kind of an idea about the identity of the deceased.
If you are the Anthropology or the Forensic Osteology expert, the responsibility is also on you to determine the possible cause of death. That will determine whether the police have a case of homicide on their hands, or a case of death due to natural reasons.
With this crucial information in their arsenal the police can now go about hunting for suspects. Herein also the Forensic Anthropologist has quite a role to play. If you happen to be the Anthropology expert in this case, your estimated time of death will determine whether the man who is claiming to be away on a trip during the time the murder was committed can be ticked off from the suspect list.
The Anthropology branch of Forensic Science now finds application in Human Rights issues too. In particular the genocide cases of the recent past have garnered a lot of media attention. During the 1994 Rwanda civil war, Hutu extremists massacred 500,000 to 800,000 Tutsi people and it was left to the Forensic Anthropologist to attempt recovery and analysis of the remains.
The discovery of a mass grave in Croatia called into action the services of the Forensic Anthropologist and the Osteology expert to exhume, analyze and identify the skeletal remains.
With its ever-widening scope, Forensic Anthropology is fast becoming a lucrative career option.