Thisresearch paper examined the functions fulfilled through forensicanthropology during the process of disaster victim identification(mass casualties) and the biases associated with the approach. It wasdetermined that forensic anthropologists make use of their training,knowledge, and experience derived from biological anthropology inthe processes of recovering, sorting, and examining of human andnonhuman remains, particularly those with severe burns, commingled,and fragmented as a result of trauma. Once in the accident site,forensic anthropologists endeavor to generate information regardingthe biological features of the remains (the age at death, theancestry of the victim, sex, and stature), sort commingling, and workside by side with the coroner and medical examiners to identify humanremains through DNA examination and fingerprinting. Althoughsuccessful, the major bias of forensic anthropology is that undersevere cases of commingling, errors may occur in the identificationand result in the issue of a wrong body to the family members.Individual items, for instance toothbrush and used razors, have beenutilized as direct references by forensic anthropologists. On thecontrary, the method is perceived to be of significant potentialerrors, culminating in insincere exclusions, while the occurrence ofexogenous cell debris contamination may facilitate mixed samples ofDNA that deters successful separation.
Thereare many divergent opinions and viewpoints on the topic ofanthropology, its relationship with various cultures, as well as thedegree to which it can affect human beliefs and living patterns.However,Fabian(2014)defined anthropologyas a social science that deals with the study of the genesis,physical, and cultural developments of humanity, their biologicaltrait, beliefs, and social customs. It is viewed as the extensivestudy of persons, their evolutionary history and adaptation to theenvironment, communication, dressing, lifestyle and their foods(Hodder, 2012). It is, thus, imperative to note that anthropology isa broad field of study that covers various aspects of human beings.
Thediscipline of anthropology is divided into different subfields toenhance deeper appreciation of people’s origins, behaviors andliving patterns, as well as factors affecting their lives. The firstbranch is the linguistic anthropology that entails the study of howhumans communicate among themselves, the history and origin of suchlanguages, as well as recent changes and variation noted in thelanguages (Hodder, 2012). Secondly, there is archaeology thatinvolves the study of ancient human cultures based on their materialresidues or artifacts. The third subdivision is cultural anthropologythat specializes on cultures and variations of the people who arestill alive. The fourth branch is the physical or biologicalanthropology that encompasses the study of people as biologicalorganisms, with such processes as evolutions and modern variationsforming major focus areas of exploit (Hodder, 2012). Fabian (2014)emphasized that cultureis person’s acquired beliefs and behaviors. Due to the constantgrowth of anthropology as a field of study, some scholars contendthat applied anthropology, which entails the use of the amassedknowledge of anthropology to solve and prevent problems or use suchknow-how in formulating and shaping policies, should be included asthe fifth branch (Fabian, 2014).
Anthropology,as a discipline, is an obstinate tool that aids in the comprehensionof factors affecting various aspects of human life like security,economy, and politics, as well a social life. Through anthropology,it is possibly to derive information necessary for understanding andtransforming human life (Fabian, 2014). Of particular interest inthis research paper is how anthropology can be applied in forensicsto examine mass casualties. The discipline, otherwise known asforensic anthropology, is an applied science which makes use of theknowledge from biological anthropology to identify mass victims ofcrimes and or accidents (Byers, 2015). Therefore, this research paperexamines forensicanthropology, highlighting its use in mass casualty cases and itsbiases.
Forensicanthropology connotes the use of knowledge derived from anthropologyin criminal examinations. It constitutes conceptions and proceduresderived from biological anthropology, which emphasizes on thephysical features of humans (Byers,2015).Recognizing unknown persons is an integral part of forensicanthropology. The highly skilled anthropologists help in theexaminations by coming up with a biological profile (Blau,2016).In this profile, the aspects of age estimation, sex determination,stature recognition, and the mapping of ancestry are considered. Inaddition, the anthropologist identifies particular features, forinstance, injuries or the probable disease (Steadman,2015).The anthropologists do not only assist to distinguish human remainsbut also participate in the analysis of injuries which occur aboutthe tine one dies, thereby making it easier to predict what causeone’s death or how he or she died (Tersigni-Tarrant& Shirley, 2012).In order to accomplish the above missions, forensic anthropologistsuse the basic knowledge from biological anthropology by asking anumber of questions, which are discussed below:
Isthe remain examined a bone?
Theinitial consideration of the anthropologist carrying out theexamination is to ascertain if the remain is a bone or otherwise. Inany case, Steadman(2015) argued that asurprising number of remains may be misidentified as bones whenobserved at first glance, particularly if they are concealed withdirt or other materials. Such materials as rocks, ceramic shards,concrete fragments, and wood fragments may be confused for bones.Hence, the practicing forensic anthropologist cleans the remains andscrutinizes it carefully, sometimes using magnifying instruments tomake certain that the object in question is truly a bone (Blau,2016).After this initial step, forensic anthropologist asks a secondquestion.
Doesthe identified bone belong to human?
Atthis instant, the anthropologist is certain the object is a bone, butwhether or not it belongs to human or a non-human organism must bedetermined. The challenge presented relates to the fact that theentire class of mammals possesses similar bones in approximately thesame positions. These include the skull bones, the spinal bones, ribbones, and four clusters of the bones of the limbs. On the contrary,the shape of these bones, as well as the way they associate with eachother, is distinct among the animals (Tersigni-Tarrant& Shirley, 2012).By inspecting the size and shape of the bones alongside thestructures, forensic anthropologists readily conclude if the bonebelongs to human, after which the next inquiry follows.
Whattypes of bones are there?
Onceit is determined that the case implicates human bone, the forensicanthropologist endeavors to classify the present bones or elementsagainst the ones that are not available. A majority ofanthropologists commence this activity by spreading out the presentbone elements on a table with the aim to organize them and create thepicture of a living human, what is termed as the “anatomicalposition” (Steadman,2015).There are several functions of this arrangement. First, itestablishes an informal visual inventory which facilitates rapidrecognition of the bone parts that are not in place. Secondly, itenables the forensic anthropologist to work steadily through thewhole skeleton, partaking a thorough inventory and scanning everybone for trauma, pathology, or history of life traits. Finally, onceeach bone is assessed, the anthropologist goes ahead to examine theentire skeleton as a block, looking for the potential discrepanciesbetween the existing bone elements or the trends of trauma exhibitedby the elements (Christensen,Passalacqua & Bartelink, 2013).
Ata recovery or accident location, skeleton inventories are essentialas they allow the investigators and scene responders to familiarizewith what to search for in case something important is still missingand has to be recovered. Such inventories guarantee utter recovery ofall the necessary remains or evidence from a site. Under theperspective of criminology, inventories done by anthropologists areneeded to verify the elements that are present against the absentones. The lack of some elements can offer a great deal of insightconcerning the events of perimortem, taphonomy, as well as thebehavior of perpetrator (Beary& Lyman, 2012).Perimortem denotes the injuries or events which took place at orwithin the time a person lost his or her life. On the other hand,Beary& Lyman (2012) pointed out that taphonomysignifies the study of modifications which an organism (human in thiscase) experiences from the time of death to the time it is discoveredand examined. Regarding forensic anthropology, the process comprisesof the entire biological and non-biological events that facilitatedecomposition and skeletonization besides postmortem changes of theremains (Beary& Lyman, 2012).The component to look for under biological factors is, in this case,human agents. The non-biological aspects assessed may includeexposure to sun, temperature, precipitation, and fire to mention afew (Blau,2016).Taphonomic events are very informative and often utilized by forensicanthropologists in estimating time between death and discovery, andtrauma or cause of death (Beary& Lyman, 2012).At this point, the forensic anthropologist asks another vitalquestion:
Howmany persons are represented?
Besidesdetermining the exact elements in place, anthropologists also work toestablish the total number of people implicated. To achieve this, theexperts scan for identical elements, for instance, two right thighlimb bones. Aside from this, the anthropologists also examine thebones’ sizes and conditions (Blau,2016).If the available elements are not duplicates, the suggestion is thatmore than one person was involved. When the remains of several peopleare mixed together in a scene e.g. plane crash incident, the processis known as “comingling.” It is imperative for every forensicanthropologist to take care of comingling and ascertain which personsthe bones represent so that each body can be scrutinizedindependently (Christensenet al., 2013).
Determiningthe total number of persons is very essential, particularly if thecase entails crime. Very many people may be killed together orseparate casualties may be disposed of in one place over an extendedduration. In other occasions, perpetrators bury several victimsjointly in a mass gravesite to cover up their action. Under the aboveconditions, forensic anthropologists work to establish the exactnumber of victims involved to ensure that the cases are understoodand resolutions brought forth (Steadman,2015).
Arethe remains identified modern or ancient?
Thepeople of North America have inhabited the place for millenniums.Over time, Krishan,Kanchan, Menezes & Ghosh (2012) noted that theseinhabitants traversed their territories and frequently buried thedeceased during movement as the present customs inform. In certainincidences, burials were left unmarked while in other cases, therewas commemoration of graves, although the markers have sincedecomposed or vanished. Currently, these prehistoric graves areoccasionally exposed as a result of soil erosion, rains, andactivities of humans. As the experts in the field of human remains,forensic anthropologists are mostly invited to tell between theprehistoric remains or burials and latest deaths which bearimportance to forensic science (Tersigni-Tarrant& Shirley, 2012).When a group of remains is established to be archaeological innature, the cultural unit connected to the burials is informed withan aim to have the remains handled in a proper way. Often, theremains are taken back to the tribe for the purpose of having themreburied. On the other hand, where the skeleton remains appear to bevery recent as determined by the forensic anthropologist, they arehandled via law enforcement and the office of the medical examiner ina similar way as the rest of the unattended deaths (Krishanet al., 2012).
Forensicanthropologists, while making use of the knowledge they haveregarding disposition, can distinguish between skeletons based ontimelines i.e. modern versus ancient skeletons. All they need toassess are body condition, position, and location, and then provideclues to the occurrences that led to the burial or death (Beary& Lyman, 2012).The related material data are also important in suggesting theremains’ origin for instance, remains discovered with the latestclothing or cell phone in the pocket, as well as modern dentition,are considered to represent an individual who passed on recently(Steadman,2015).On the contrary, remains identified in involvement with culturalobjects that conform to the burial practices of the local FirstNations may be attributed to an individual buried based on his or herculture and social norms and, thus, not of any value to forensicexploit or law enforcement (Krishanet al., 2012).The next question often asked by forensic anthropologists is:
Whois the person implicated in the case?
AccordingtoByers(2015), forensicanthropologists play a part in the recognition of the unknown personsby creating a biological profile comprising of age, sex, ancestry, aswell as stature. Also, the biological profile covers other aspects ofan individual characteristics like healed fractures and sustainedinjuries or trauma. Modeling a biological profile is a criticalinitial move with the discovery of skeletonized remains of peoplebecause the data can be utilized in the identification of particularindividuals or to shorten a list of potential missing humans.
Sex:Theforemost move in establishing a biological profile is thedetermination of sex. Sex connotes the biological quality of a personas dictated by genes, and conveyed via primary and secondary sexualcharacteristics. Some of the primary traits are hormones andreproductive organs, while secondary qualities are body hair andmusculature among others (Beary& Lyman, 2012).Sex should not be confused with gender, as the latter signifies anindividual’s social identity expression as it associates with theirduties in the community, as well as behavior. Normally, gender isself-defined, with the norms related to the society and cultureimpacting gender choice however, people may not essentially identifythemselves based on those rules or norms. Specifically, forensicanthropologists do not resolve gender but rather, individualinfluences and cultural materials are likely to pinpoint the genderidentification of an individual (Steadman,2015).
Thehormonal and visual disparities that bring about the distinctionsbetween males and females are also proved the result in physiologicaldiscrepancy between the skeletons of the two sexes. The pelvic bonesand skulls of males and females are the central focus as they harborsexual dimorphism. The dichotomies in the pelvis are mostly theoutcome of functional and evolutionary restrictions. Every human isadapted to bipedal mode of locomotion i.e. walking on two legs, butthe female group must also conceive comparatively large-headedinfants. These distinct pressures generate structural disparitiesbetween the sexes and can be applied in classifying male and femaleremains (Blau,2016).
Apartfrom the bones of the pelvis, the skull also displays a level ofsexual dimorphism. Generally, the male individuals seem to possessskulls which are larger relative to those of the females. Inaddition, the males, on average, exhibit extensive muscleestablishment characterized with more rugged attachment of muscles.These discrepancies in size and robustness can aid in decidingwhether a person is female or male (Tersigni-Tarrant& Shirley, 2012).
However,the disparities in robustness and size can also be confirmed in otherelements. In case there is a lack of skull and pelvis, measuringother bones can assist in the verification of males and females. Theonly precaution that the forensic anthropologists must take heed ofis the existing overlap between males and females otherwise therewould be a likelihood of misidentification of the remains (Krishanet al., 2012).
Age:Predictingan individual’s age at the period of death is dependent on twoelemental life processes which are identified as “growth” and“decline.” First, the changes related to growth and developmentis dependent to a greater extent on the degree and position of bonegrowth alongside dental establishment and eruption from youngindividuals’ gums. Immediately at birth, human bones constitutesoft cartilage. During the process of growth, the cartilage issubstituted with hard bone at certain growth centers. More than 300centers of bone growth occur in infants which finally coalesce tobecome the total of 206 bones that are present in adults (Steadman,2015).Because the centers grow and unite at rates that are known, forensicanthropologists can apply the pattern in estimating children’s andsub-adults’ ages (seefigure 1 below).Again, teeth grow and erupt in a defined sequence at particular timesthrough childhood the timing can be utilized in generating a preciseage estimate in juveniles.
Figure1:Differences in bone structure/appearance as one grows older observethe structure of the little bones occurring at the terminal areas ofthe longer bones in the 6 and 8 year-old males as we become of age,these bones unite into one bone. Forensic anthropologists examinethese bones’ manifestation and fusion to approximate the age of anindividual (Mundorff,2012).
Duringthe late 20s, on the contrary, the process of bone growth hasstopped. In tandem with that, forensic anthropologists make use ofdegenerative alterations in the body to identify the exact age atdeath. Joints are specifically susceptible to deterioration and acommon locality to emphasize for age approximation is the pelvis. Atthe front area of the pelvis where there is the meeting of the twohalves on top of the pubic region, there is a unique joint named thepubic symphysis (Beary& Lyman, 2012).The joint encounters uniform transformation through the course of anindividual’s life and can be utilized to infer physiological age(seefigure 2 below).Besides, forensic anthropologists also make use of the fourth rib topredict the age because the cartilage which occurs between the rib’send and the sternum gradually changes to bone over time.Additionally, features of the skull can be utilized to approximateage. In spite of appearing to be a single unit, in actuality, theskull comprises of many bones jointly linked by zipper-like fusionsidentified as sutures. In younger persons, the sutures are open andappear loose. However, at old age, there is complete fusion of thesutures, and they are nearly indistinguishable (Steadman,2015).
Figure2:Developmental transformations of the pubic symphysis through 6instances (I-VI) from the juvenile stages (on the left) to olderstage (on the right). Forensic anthropologists examine thesedisparities to predict the age of one at death (Fabian, 2014).
Ancestry:Forensicanthropologists also endeavor to determine the ancestry to attain acomplete biological profile. In the usual society, the word “race”is frequently applied to define population variations. On thecontrary, there are no races in biological sense forensicanthropologists make use of the term ancestry as a replacement of theterm race. To examine ancestry, skeleton characteristics areconsidered as they appear to be more common in some populationscompared to others (Blau,2016).Although the skeleton characteristics cannot resolve skin or eyecolor, they have the potential to classify an individual as European,Asian, or African. It is imperative to note that whereas persons withparallel ancestry seem to share particular features, humans contrastmore within populaces than between them and there is considerablyhigh level of overlap (Krishanet al., 2012).Likewise, it is vital to remember that in the case of forensicinvestigations, the definitive aims are to recognize and identifypeople and ancestry mostly covers an individual’s physical looksthan the biological heritage of the subjects. By placing a person’sskull and face bones under thorough measurement, observation, andanalysis procedures, forensic anthropologists can determine theancestry of the deceased as either of Asian, African, or Europeanorigin (Tersigni-Tarrant& Shirley, 2012).
Stature:Estimationof living stature can also aid in the process of identifying theunknown. Due to the fact that there is a close association betweenthe length of the limb and the height, forensic anthropologists cancome up with the measurements of the arm and or leg bones andsubjecting the outcomes to mathematical formula which determines thedeviations regarding sex and ancestry. This formula generates aheight range that can serve the purpose of ruling out people who arenot within the height limits (Steadman,2015).
Individualizingcharacteristics:Particular physical features can also assist in identifying unknownpersons. It is confirmed that disorders related to nutrition orgenetics, infections and diseases, and healed fractures all modifythe bone in distinctive versions which can be utilized indistinguishing persons or to draw comparisons with antemortem medicaldata of missing individuals to locate probable matches (Beary& Lyman, 2012).
First,genetics can contribute in the exceptional features of a person’sskeleton. For instance, one of the many genetic disorders namedOsteogenesisimperfecta (i.e.brittle bone disease) causes recurrent bone fractures. The fracturesare evident on the skeleton in multiple areas and in contrastinghealing stages. Due to the reason that the condition constant medicalattention, the victims of the disorder are likely to have broadantemortem medical information that can guide the forensicanthropologists in their identification (Danieli & Dingman,2014). Note that antemortem signifies the events or injuries whichtook place while one was still alive and can be identified in theirremains after passing on for instance, infections, healed bonefractures, and deficiencies of nutrition (Blau,2016).
Neoplasticdiseases, for example cancers, can also impact the skull. First, softtissue cancer occurring adjacent to a bone may create pressure,leading to tissue reactions that end up with a holes or bone lesions.Other forms of cancers stimulate the growth of tumors in the bones.Irrespective of the cancers being malignant or benign, tumors ofbones can lead to considerable skeleton alterations that areidentifiable long after the decomposition of the soft tissue (Iscan &Steyn, 2013). Infectious diseases can also offer insight regardingthe life history of a person. Tuberculosis is known to induce bonelesions, particularly lesions of the spine, pelvis, and ribs. On theother hand, the sexually transmitted disease named syphilis resultsin the formation of degenerative pits on the bone surface, with themost affected areas being the shin, forehead, and nose. Likewise,leprosy, also termed as Hansen’s disease, is a disease of the softtissues with adverse impacts on the nerves and skin, and appears toinitially show in the extremities and the face (Iscan & Steyn,2013). The disease, although not affecting bone loss directly, canculminate in the necrosis of tissues that, in turn, results in boneatrophy and degeneration in the affected positions. These changes, ifcompared with the known medical information of people while they werealive, can aid forensic anthropologists into identifying the unknownpeople (Krishanet al., 2012).
Finally,fractures are another trait of life history of value in the processof identification. Bones which get broken during one’s lifetimeusually heal, but the fracture (and or the scar) evidence persists atdeath and can be used to determine a person. Suppose the fracture waspronounced and needed medical response, the proof of the presence ofscrews, rods, and or plastic metals introduced in the area offracture through surgery are used to determine the person(Tersigni-Tarrant& Shirley, 2012).In any case, some of the surgical hardware are engraved with serialnumbers which can serve in identifying the manufacturer, with theproof gradually helping to reduce the list of unknown victims.Moreover, pace-makers, dentures, artificial limbs, and glass eyes areall distinct and matched to the person making use of them. Althoughthey are rare, surgical hardware are awfully useful as individualizedcharacteristics forensic anthropologists often consider them in theidentification process (Danieli & Dingman, 2014). This marks theend of the identification of the casualty implicated, and the nextquestion is asked in an attempt to ascertain what occurred:
Forensicanthropologists are subjected to adequate training to enable themgather proof concerning the situations surrounding the passing on ofpersons. Here, the experts examine the traumas of the remains orskeletons and deriving distinctions regarding injuries inflicted bybullets, blunt objects, and sharp objects among other instruments.The cause of sharp force trauma is a narrow or pointed object hittinga relatively small area. The slashes, cuts, and stabs characterizedby sharp force normally break through the soft tissue to cause cutimpressions on the surfaces of bones (Fluehr-Lobban, 2013). On thecontrary, blunt force trauma is caused as a due to a large toolstriking a much larger surface. The outcomes of blunt force traumaare limb and arm bone fractures, or the shattering and crushing ofthe skull’s flat bones. Another type of injury, projectile trauma,constitutes the application of extreme force on a small surface. Itarises from bullet impacts, as well as arrows and other smallimplements conveyed at high speed. The damage introduced byprojectile trauma is frequently utilized to ascertain the directionof movement of the projectile used. In addition to the above,forensic anthropologists also look for trauma related tostrangulation, explosions, electrocution, and heat/chemical inducedinjuries (Fluehr-Lobban, 2013).
Again,the patters of traumas evident on the body are crucial in the case.Several, ruthless blunt injuries in the entire body may imply anindividual fell from a high altitude or there was a car accident.Cases with sharp trauma injuries on the hands and or lower limbspinpoint to wounds acquired as a result of defense attempts.Likewise, projectile wounds’ direction can be utilized to accept orreject the story of a suspect (Blau,2016).It is the obligation of the forensic anthropologist to keenly recordinformation concerning trauma based on the form, position, andnumber. That way, it would be possible to establish a picture of whata person went through at the time he or she died. And in spite of thefact that they are not lawfully responsible for concluding the reasonfor one’s death, the data brought forth by forensic anthropologistsserve as the foundation guide to the coroner (an officialinvestigator of death) and medical examiners in making officialdecision regarding the death case (Iscan & Steyn, 2013).
Whendid the incident happen?
Itdoesn’t matter whether the happening is associated with criminalacts or an accident the goal of the forensic anthropologist is toestimate the time the event happened. To answer the query related tothe time that has passed since death, the anthropologists make use oftaphonomy to appreciate the contexts and conditions that modified theremains. Here, biological and non-biological occurrences thatfacilitated decomposition, skeletonization, as well as depositionalalterations related to a group of remains, are carefully assessed(Mundorff, 2012). The biological factors of interest to forensicanthropologists are human agents, insects, animals, invertebrates,and plants. The scavenging acts of carnivores on human remainsbesides the gnawing on the dry remains by rodents are expected. Also,there are instances where the roots of plants etch into the surfacesof bones (Christensenet al., 2013).On the other hand, insects and worms can transfer the remains for usein the building of nests and during tunneling. Apart from the above,other agents such as wind, sand, water, and low soil pH can abradethe bones. In addition, constant freeze and thaw events result in thefragmentation or disintegration of bones, whereas extreme heat andsun exposure causes bone surfaces to develop cracks alongside peelingaway. By applying their experience of the processes of taphonomy,forensic anthropologists are able to estimate the time length thehuman remain has been buried or exposed, as well as establishing ifseveral sets of remains have been moved or otherwise (Mundorff,2012).
Followingthe successful creation of a biological profile and singling out thelikely missing individual(s), the investigators work to ascertainthat the unknown remains match the missing person at hand beyonddoubt. One of the most effective means of verifying theidentification is to draw comparisons between antemortem medicalinformation and the proof brought forth by the remains. For instance,x-rays obtained while one was alive can be weighed against the x-raysof the skeletonized human remains. Medical data of persons withsurgical hardware (e.g. orthopedic pins and breast augmentation) canbe related with the available evidence of the same instrumentsobtained from the human remains (Danieli & Dingman, 2014).
Althoughthe evidence availed are key to the case, forensic anthropologistscannot officially determine a person. In America, mostly the coronerand medical examiners have the legal jurisdiction to identify anunknown person. If the entire antemortem data, material proof, andskeleton confirmation conform, the verification is concluded as“presumptive,” meaning that the investigation panel comes to anagreement that the deceased is the missing individual (Davis &Alexander, 2015). However, the investigators proceed to seek forcorroborative confirmation, which involves the request for samples ofDNA from the members of the family of the dead. When the familial DNAcorresponds to the DNA of the deceased, the identification isconcluded to be positive, with the remains released to the family.However, in other instance, there may be a mismatch of the familialand dead person’s DNA, compelling the coroner or medical examinersto scrutinize the evidences presented and decide if they sufficientenough to sustain the process of identification (Christensenet al., 2013).
ForensicAnthropology in Mass Casualty Cases
Forensicanthropologists have taken part in the disaster victim identification(DVI) for many years. Their involvement in multidisciplinary DVIgroups has been increasing worldwide. This section presents a numberof cases in which forensic anthropologists participated in theidentification of unknown individuals after a disaster.
First,in the year 2009, a plane crash occurred in New York which involvedthe Continental Connections flight number 3407. In this disaster, atotal of 50 individuals lost their lives, and were burnt beyondrecognition by untrained people. Following the incident, a team ofDVI comprising of skilled anthropologists was deployed at the site.While making use of archaeological procedures, the team mapped thearea of the disaster and proceeded to excavate the remains of thecrash casualties (Ferguson, 2012). Forensic anthropologists with theexperience to identify burnt bodies and human remains’ fragmentsnoted contextual information through casualty recovery, for example,the proximity of possibly adjoining elements, and personal effects’association. Without such data in place, it could have taken quite awhile to identify the victims. In addition to mapping of the actuallocation of the remains through the use of an electronic totalstation, the forensic anthropologists did the screening of the debrisquarter-inch mesh, thereby enabling them to recover the fragmentedremains (Ferguson, 2012).
Thesame procedures were utilized after the bush fire incident inAustralia in the year 2009. Using the same mapping and excavationtechniques employed during the Continental Connections flight crash,the forensic anthropologists were able to recover a greaterproportion of the remains in Australia, making it easy to documentcritical contextual data that facilitated the addressing ofcommingling and ascertaining identification (Davis & Alexander,2015). The role of forensic anthropologists in successful mapping andexcavation cannot be overemphasized. For example, after the 2001 ofSeptember 11thattacks that left about 2,977 people dead at Ground Zero, those whowere involved in DVI were firefighters (Mundorff, 2012). However,they lacked adequate knowledge regarding biological anthropology orarchaeology, and could not readily create biological profiles,thereby compromising the remains. The team failed to make use ofestablished recovery protocols derived from the field ofanthropology. In tandem with that, the mortuary personnel observedoccasions of extra commingling and the dissociation of remains thatresulted during recovery, all of which complicated and delayed theprocess of identification (Ziętkiewicz, Witt, Daca, Żebracka-Gala,Goniewicz, Jarząb & Witt, 2012).
Manyforensic anthropologists have sufficient background knowledge inzooarchaelogy (the mapping of animal remains in the variousarchaeology locations) and can successfully distinguish between humanremains and nonhuman fragments. For instance, in the year 2001(September 11), terrorists attacked and destroyed the World TradeCenter (WTC) site, resulting in the commingling of many animal boneswith human remains. The forensic anthropologists operating from theStaten Island Landform where a majority of the Ground Zero fragmentswere sort through, effectively recognized and discarded nonhumanremains on the site prior to the processing of the remains in themortuary (Franklin, Swift & Flavel, 2016). Likewise, the forensicanthropologists who successfully recovered the highly calcined,fragmented remains after the bush fire in Australia made use of theirskeleton anatomy skills to complete the process of separating humanfrom nonhuman remains. Some materials, particularly burnt residues ofa building, resemble burnt bones of humans and can be readilyconfused for human bone fragments. Permitting the anthropologists todifferentiate between human and nonhuman remains at the site can helpsimplify the DVI process. That is because fewer items are assembledand documented with the subsequent assignment of fewer casualties andtransfer to the mortuary for further assessment. Hence, fewer DNAprocedures are performed and less data that is accurate entered(Danieli & Dingman, 2014).
Remainscan be commingled naturally through disaster (e.g. earthquakes, planecrash) or accidentally during the process of recovery. In both cases,the forensic archaeologists working during the mortuary-based triageare skilled enough to sort the commingled remains. They partake theprocess at the mortuary prior to assigning the case a number, takingx-rays, obtaining photographs, or performing DNA (Mundorff, 2012).However, in the commotions often linked with a disaster, cominglingis frequently missed through the first assessment. If commingling isascertained after the assessment and the completion of documentation,the case is put to thorough re-examination and split into several newcases (Haviland, Prins, Walrath & McBride, 2012). For instance,after the completion of the WTC mortuary examination, a scenario of aprobable commingling was realized in an already identified case thatwas almost being released to the family. Immediately the instance ofcommingling was noted, the mortuary-based experts started a tersere-assessment of the already determined sets of remains by theforensic anthropologist which totaled 16,969 (Davis & Alexander,2015). Out of the entire sets, the anthropologists ascertained that75 remains, i.e. 0.044 percent of the cases, were likely commingledthey were thus split new cases totaling 293. What followed wasfurther DNA examination of the 75 cases in which it was determinedthat the actual cases commingled were only 24. Although thecommingling scenario after case documentation was minimal, itindicated the need for stringent measures during the identificationprocess as disaster-induced comingling is complicated and can bemissed (Davis & Alexander, 2015).
Anothercase illustration of forensic anthropologists’ participation inmass casualties relates to the 2003 crash of Staten Island Ferry.What followed was the incorporation of a DVI team. In the incident,11 persons passed on, while a number of surviving casualties sufferedtraumatic amputation of limbs during the incident. The limited numberof casualties and bags that war recovered (33), as a result of theefforts by the anthropologists to identify human from nonhumanremains, made it easy to triage of classify the fragmentsconcurrently with the autopsies, which were done by the medicalexaminers (Danieli & Dingman, 2014). That permitted thereassociation of the detached amputated parts of the body and otherfragments (e.g. skull and organs) to the casualties and facilitatedthe inclusion of the fragments under similar case number by themedical examiners. At the end of the procedure, only a few fragmentsof soft tissue remained that the morgue staff could not reassociatethese needed individual processing (Haviland et al., 2012).
Oneof the worst disasters that led to the death of many people in therecent years is associated with the Asian tsunami of 2004 (December26th).The tsunami killed approximately 230,000 casualties in 11 differentnations. The tourism resorts based in Thailand encountered severedestruction, with over 4,225 people who succumbed to the disasterreported to be of foreign origin. As a whole, the tsunami killedforeigners of 58 different countries in the region affected(Ziętkiewicz et al., 2012). For a successful identification ofvictims, the Belgian DVI team was deployed in the area. Because ofthe ancestral diversity of the victims implicated, a great need foreffective communication between the casualties’ nations and the DVIteam in the tsunami scene emerged to acquire antemortem (AM) recordsof the victims (Mundorff, 2012).
TheThai Tsunami Victim Identification point was introduced in Phuket inthe year 2005, January 13th,with the consequent initiation of a central mortuary to facilitatethe assessment of all casualties in Thailand. Following the arrivalof the DVI teams of forensic anthropologists, the establishment ofstandard Interpol protocols of operation was executed (Mundorff,2012). Most of the previous processes of identifying victims entailedvisual recognition by the next of kin. However, in the subsequentcases, as a result of extended immersion of the human remains, inaddition to chaotic recovery of body, and the inadequacy ofrefrigerated body storage facilities, was greeted with problematicfingerprint and facial identification. On that regard, dentistrysurfaced as the best option to identify the remains, with theacquisition of AM dental records of victims rated as critical to theidentification process (Franklin et al., 2016).
Oncea person had been verified missing in their nation of origin, a teamof AM left to obtain the missing individual’s familial DNA andfingerprint samples. The dentist of the person was consulted, and AMdental data associated with the postulated casualty acquired(Dirkmaat, 2014). Forensic odontologists of anthropology backgroundsat the Interpol then transliterated the present AM information(presented by the forensic anthropologists) into the “Plass data”program to be compared against all the arriving PM dental data. Innearly all incidences where the head had been maintained with thepostmortem (PM) of the human remains, the teeth were noted to beintact. Dental assessment, undertaken whenever feasible by theforensic odontologists, incorporated visual inspection accompanied byradiographic examinations, normally bitewings, to aid in precisedental charting (Iscan & Steyn, 2013). The results were thenconcluded or verified by a second odontologist. The PM records of thecasualties were then introduced into the Plass database. Although thePlass data program did not generate the identities of the humanremains, it increased DVI’s efficiency as it compiled an AM-PMmatches’ shortlist. The attained list of probable matches wasforwarded to the chief medical examiner to ascertain the presence orabsence of conformities (Ziętkiewicz et al., 2012).
Anestimation of 80 percent of the forensic identifications performed onnon-Asians comprised of dental matching. On the other hand,concerning the Thai citizens, many lacked dental AM records, andthere was poor recording of data once people are treated, in additionto the damage of paper notes and death of many dental surgeons due totsunami. Additionally, there was barely any digital data record forthe Thai nationalities. Hence, other techniques of identification,for instance, fingerprinting (it is compulsory in Thai for everycitizen to provide fingerprint information), was utilized (Franklinet al., 2016). Once fingerprinting was complete, the human remainswere moved to the autopsy room for internal and externaldescriptions. Here, such items as clothing and jewelry were separatedfrom the body and cleaned, as well as photographed and assigned ascale that corresponds to the body number. Through external bodyexamination, the forensic anthropologists were able to map height,describe tattoos, scars, and anatomic features alongside thecongenital abnormalities and latest traumatic occurrences (Iscan &Steyn, 2013). Other perceptible physical traits, for example, thecolor of cranial hair, and the description of axillar, thoracic,pubic, and arm hair also became possible. Through the procedure, thevictims were successfully identified and their families and countriesissued to take their respective casualties. With such a huge numberof deaths, visual recognition by family members could not have beenpossible (Dirkmaat, 2014). Therefore, forensic anthropology is veryuseful in identifying mass casualties.
Althoughpositive identification is greatly ascribed to forensic anthropologyduring mass casualties, there are several challenges associated withthe method. The major issue relates to the process of sortingcomingling. Mass disasters characterized by pronounced fragmented andcompromised remains of humans, for instance, fires and plane crash,feature widespread commingling. However, forensic anthropologistsmake use of small vague boney landmarks alongside othercharacteristics to identify and individualize human remains. Underthe procedure, there have been several misidentifications in thepast, thereby causing more delays to release the body to the familymembers (Haviland, Prins, Walrath & McBride, 2013).Unfortunately, even in the mortuary where such processes as adequatelighting and cleaning take place, severe commingling have frequentlyended up with misidentifications. Hence, Fluehr-Lobban (2013) notedthat there is a considerable biasness in that in case themisidentification is not realized and corrected, the next of kin ofthe deceased often end up with a wrong body which they proceed tobury as their family member. Such misidentification was noted afterthe completion of the WTC mortuary examination, in which an alreadyidentified case which was almost being released to the family waswrongly sorted from commingling. Immediately the instance ofcommingling was noted, the mortuary-based experts started a tersere-assessment of the already determined sets of remains by theforensic anthropologist which totaled 16,969. Out of the entire sets,the anthropologists ascertained that 75 remains were probablymisidentified and the situation was corrected through DNAre-examination. What if the sorting commingling issue was notidentified? The family could have taken a wrong body home perhapssome families did just that (Haviland et al., 2013).
Anotherbias of forensic anthropology relates to the use of family DNA anddirect personal references. Currently, the easiest means of DNAidentification is to harmonize the profile of the casualty’s shorttandem repeat (STR) multilocus with a direct AM sample of thecasualty. Individual items, for instance toothbrush and used razors,have been utilized as direct references in forensic anthropologists’led DVI scenarios (Fluehr-Lobban, 2013). On the contrary, the methodis perceived to be of significant potential errors, culminating ininsincere exclusions, while the occurrence of exogenous cell debriscontamination may facilitate mixed samples of DNA that deterssuccessful separation. Ideally, these samples cannot be utilized inthe exclusionary process, and if possible, all the matches derivedfrom direct references should be verified via kinship examination oran assessment of more than one direct reference (Fluehr-Lobban,2013). Otherwise, the families of the deceased may have a wrongperson at the end of the identification process.
Besides,some cases rely on the victim’s AM-PM dataset comparison, forinstance, using medical records such as surgeries, and dentalinformation (AM) to compare with the present state of the humanremain at PM. What happens in instances where the lack any medicalrecords in place? The probable option will be to performfingerprinting. The technique’s capacity to generate reliableresults depends with the intactness of the fingertip by the time thebody is identified (Iscan & Steyn, 2013). In many masscasualties, there may have been complete decomposition of the tissueto warrant the procedure unreliable, especially where the decay ispartial, yielding misleading results that my end up with bodymisidentification. Such a challenge was noted while sortingcommingling of the Thai tsunami victims whereby many lacked dental AMrecords, and there was poor recording of data once people aretreated, in addition to the damage of paper notes and death of manydental surgeons due to tsunami. Additionally, there was barely anydigital data record for the Thai nationalities. This resulted in theuse of fingerprinting instead of the initial dental examinationcarried out on the remains of foreign origin. The inability to useone method throughout the process of sorting commingling is a biasthat should be eliminated during DVI results would be more accuratein all the human remains are subjected to a singly comparabletechnique of identification (Iscan & Steyn, 2013).
Also,forensic anthropologists often use skull and pelvic bones in humanremains to distinguish between male and female victims. However,these bones show significant overlap between males and females,raising the bias of misidentifying a male for a female and viseversa. Furthermore, the use of skull bones for identifying the humanremains’ ancestry receives considerable criticism because it theprocedure cannot help in the verification of eye and skin color(Dirkmaat, 2014). Likewise, whereas individuals with parallelancestry seem to share particular features, humans show morevariation within the populaces in comparison to that between them,and there occurs a high level of overlap that may bias theidentification process. Although all the above biases are attributedto forensic anthropologists, they are not liable for any errors whichresult once they create the biological profile of the missingpersons an error made by the anthropologist is transferable to themedical examiner or coroner, with all the misidentification of theremains blamed on them because they have the legal authority toperform the final identification by selecting the most reliableinformation brought forth by anthropologists and ignoring the lessimportant ones (Dirkmaat, 2014).
Forensicanthropology has been vital in helping to recover and identify humanremains in the events of mass fatality accidents such as planecrashes, earthquakes, and fires. That has been possible because theforensic anthropologists have adequate background training,education, and exposure in the processes of recovering, sorting, andexamining of human and nonhuman remains, particularly those withsevere burns, commingled, and fragmented as a result of trauma.Hence, once in the accident site, forensic anthropologists endeavorto recover, sort, analyze, and identify unknown remains using theirexperience and knowledge. They generate information regarding thebiological features of the remains, for instance, the age at death,the ancestry of the victim, sex, and stature. Besides, forensicanthropologists also work side by side with the medical examiners orcoroner to ascertain the conditions surrounding the passing on of aperson. During the initial recovery phase, the forensicanthropologists do thorough evaluation to record the conditions ofthe remains (e.g. whether they are commingled, burned, ordecomposed). They also distinguish remains that are obviouslycommingled, create biological profiles of remains and help inadditional examination e.g. dental assessment. Apart from the usualexaminations to verify sex, age, ancestry, stature, antemortemconditions, and perimortem trauma, forensic anthropologists alsoassist in extracting soft tissue DNA, interpretation of x-ray data,interpretation of trauma, getting and isolating dental proof, anddrawing comparisons between antemortem and postmortem data. Throughsuch multidisciplinary procedures, forensic anthropologists havehelped in such mass casualty cases as the 2004 Thai tsunami and WTCattack in the year 2001.
Althoughvery successful, the major challenge that faces forensic anthropologyis the associated with sorting commingling. Under severe cases ofcommingling, errors may occur in the identification and result in theissue of a wrong body to the family members. Individual items, forinstance toothbrush and used razors, have been utilized as directreferences in forensic anthropologists’ led DVI scenarios. On thecontrary, the method is perceived to be of significant potentialerrors, culminating in insincere exclusions, while the occurrence ofexogenous cell debris contamination may facilitate mixed samples ofDNA that deters successful separation. Finally, the use of skull andpelvic bones in distinguishing between males and females also offersome bias because there seem to be an overlap in humans. Therefore,forensic anthropologists are expected to practice with more cautionif they are to successfully help in the identification of masscasualties.
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