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When should I contact a FA

An ABFA Certified Forensic Anthropologist should be utilized for the following circumstances:

You should contact an ABFA Certified Forensic Anthropologist anytime you need assistance with the search, recovery, and identification of human remains, or you would like additional expertise with the interpretation of skeletal trauma (see Contributing to Death Investigations). A Forensic Anthropologist should be contacted anytime skeletonized remains are found, as they can very quickly determine whether they are human (often even through a photograph!) and medicolegally significant, and how to most effectively recover the remains and any associated evidence. The Forensic Anthropologist can also greatly assist in the identification of the remains. An ABFA Board Certified Forensic Anthropologist will also deliver clear, concise, and accurate case reports and can provide expert witness testimony if a case goes to trial.  If you aren’t sure whether a Forensic Anthropologist can assist, feel free to contact your nearest Board Certified Forensic Anthropologist or contact the ABFA Secretary for additional guidance.
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Forensic Anthropologists working with US NDMS DMORT were called in to assist in the identification of fallen Americans after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

Other circumstances when a Forensic Anthropologist can be utilized:

  • Evaluating taphonomy in the postmortem environment
  • Estimating the postmortem interval or “time since death”
  • Locating and recovering human remains from indoor, outdoor, and fire scenes
  • Establishing forensic significance of questioned materials
  • Participating in cases of historical importance
  • Sorting commingled human remains
  • Assisting with skeletal sampling for DNA or other analyses
  • Assisting with Disaster Victim Identification in Mass Fatality Incidents 
  • Expert testimony—a Diplomate of the American Board of Forensic Anthropologist represents the most qualified Forensic Anthropologist to offer expert testimony

Some ABFA certified Forensic Anthropologists may also have specialized expertise in areas such as:

  • Personal identification methods involving superimposition of photographs of the living person to a skull, or facial approximation using clay, sketches, or digital reconstructions of the face
  • Interpreting stable isotope analysis of bone
  • X Ray Fluorescence analysis of bone to discern its elemental composition
  • Microscopic and/or histological analysis of bone with regard to trauma and age analyses
  • Field recovery and laboratory analyses in human rights investigations
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