Current Practice of Forensic Anthropology on Dead Bodies

  • Marcel A. Verhoff
  • Frank Ramsthaler


A badly decomposed cadaver is found. Preliminary investigations confirm the human specificity and suggest that the remains are contemporary and represent one unknown individual. Because the remains are so badly decomposed, it is impossible to recognize identifying characteristics such as facial features, external sex organs, or tattoos. Furthermore, fingerprints can no longer be obtained. In such cases, the first forensic anthropological objective is to identify the decedent by establishing a biological profile. Conventional osteological methods are used to estimate the decedent’s sex, age at death, body height, and ancestry. Where needed, a CT scan may be performed and the examinations conducted on virtual bones. Bony scars and dentition status can also provide further identifying clues. If the biological profile suggests a match with a missing person, further methods such as radiographic comparison, skull-photo superimposition, dental status, or forensic DNA analysis are used to confirm the decedent’s personal identity.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Legal Medicine, University Hospital of FrankfurtGoethe-UniversityFrankfurt am MainGermany
  2. 2.Department of Legal MedicineSaarland UniversityHomburg, SaarGermany

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