In simple words, the job description of forensic anthropologists can be presented as the activity of finding reasons behind a person’s death using information about remains of the body. In-depth study of human anatomy, genetics, human evolution & other subjects and most importantly a hands-on experience is required to excel in this field.
The work profile of a forensic anthropologist is vast and requires a strong academic background to handle variety of challenging tasks. Before getting into the job description of these professionals, let us understand some of the basics of forensic anthropology. The term, forensic anthropology is formed of two words, forensic and anthropology. Forensic means anything that can be used in or which belongs to the court of law.
Anthropology on the other hand is the study of Homo sapiens, i.e., human beings. So, if we try to decipher the meaning of both terms combined together, the description would be something like this: use of knowledge of human body to solve legal matters. Standard definition is as follows: the science of forensic anthropology deals with the application of study of human body (specifically the skeleton) to gather evidence for legal purposes. Most often, the information gathered by forensic anthropologists is used to solve criminal cases.
Responsibilities of a Forensic Anthropologist
The first and foremost task of these professionals is to identify whether a particular bone is that of a human being or not. Resemblance of human bones with that of animals is often the cause of confusion in the identification process. After completing this identification process, there are other details which have to be found out. Some of these details are gender of the deceased, age at death, growth of bones, height and defects if any, etc. The job description of these professionals can be presented in a better manner with the help of following facts.
Determining the Height
The femur bone is used in determining height of the body. Height of the body is 2 and 2/3 times the length of femur. Sometimes, all bones of the body are found in a sound condition. These bones can be reassembled to find the actual height of the body.
It is possible to determine the gender of a person by studying the hip and skull bones. Bones that are located below the lower back of skull and ear prove to be useful in determining the gender. These bones in men are much more prominent than that in women. In case of hip bones, the bones present in females are wider than males.
The age of body can be determined with the help of following signs and indications. Wisdom teeth generally appears around the age of 18. Depending on the growth of wisdom teeth, it is possible to determine whether a skeleton is that of a teenager or an adult. Similarly, the presence of milk teeth should confirm that it is a skeleton of a child.
Apart from these, the other things to be determined may be the time and cause of death, the type of weapon used (if any), traces of any poisonous or illegal substances present in and around the body, etc.
Forensic Anthropology Education
To become proficient in this field, you need to have a Doctoral degree. You need to study for about 10 years after the post-secondary education.
Apart from the required qualification, great mental strength also is a prerequisite for this job. You have to stay prepared to deal with mutilated bodies. If you are really interested in working in this field, start preparing from the undergraduate level itself. At the master’s levels, students are taught about the skeletal and biological anthropology. Different techniques and procedures used to study the human body are included as part of the curriculum. The most important subject studied at the Master’s level is Osteology.
At the doctoral level, coursework becomes much more extensive and diversified. Subjects included in the Ph. D. program are Osteology, Zooarchaelogy, Biomechanics, Water and Soil Sciences, Genetics, Human Evolution, Functional Anatomy, etc. Lots of hands-on experience is gained while pursuing a doctoral degree.
Forensic anthropology provides you with a lucrative career, given that you have the necessary qualification and experience. The forensic anthropologist salary depends on how experienced s(he) is; the range can be $32,060 – $83,144. If you are ready to work hard and have the guts to dissect bodies, this profession should be ideal for you.