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Forensic science involves the application of physical science to areas of the law. Accordingly, forensic anthropology applies scientific techniques to analyze human remains and to determine whether a crime has been committed. Such scientific techniques and applications are most often used to determine age at death, population, stature, gender, trauma, cause of death, existence of disease, and other physical attributes to skeletal material. However, forensic anthropologists can also assist in remains identification of burned, decomposed, or fragmentary remains which can result from mass fatality accidents such as occurred on 9/11. Forensic anthropologists typically work with medical examiners and coroners; however, they are not solely utilized by prosecutors or exclusively in criminal cases.
As there are several types of anthropology, all can be applied in a forensic setting. For example, archeology and paleontology can be referred to as forensic anthropology if applied to the law. Further, forensic anthropology utilizes techniques from multiple disciplines including physics, chemistry, anatomy, law enforcement, and pathology in its scientific analysis. One of the most interesting current applications of forensic anthropology occurs in the realm of facial reconstruction in which an anthropologist essentially builds a model of a decedent’s face based upon skull and facial features for identification purposes.