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OSU Forensics Day 6

Day 6: Constructing a Biological Profile from Skeletal Remains

“Today we focused on building a biological profile. This was extremely interesting to me, and sometimes it raised more questions than it answered. I really enjoyed dealing with stature, because it was the most straight-forward and increased my comfort level. Sexing was more difficult, because there is so much overlap, especially when dealing with a variety of populations. I am wondering how forensic anthropologists deal with individuals who are intersex. I haven’t yet seen a text that has acknowledged intersex or explained biological variation in sex, such as having two X chromosomes and one Y, and what if any correlation to visible skeletal variation there might be, and so I should ask about that tomorrow. Ancestry is also complex, depending on gene flow and with estimating ancestry as basically dependent on individuals of the same ancestry to have children with other of the same ancestry, at least until more research is done. I am worried about the pace of research, such as number of individuals who want to donate their body to science and time to conduct the studies, contrasted with an immediate need to identify individuals of mixed ancestry. I really appreciate the discussing the limitations in estimating sex and ancestry, and the high degree of overlap, while acknowledging that social constructs do have an impact on biology, such as racism, diet, access to health care, and the effect on the skeletal system.”

Laura S. – Participant

“While learning about all of the elements of creating a biological profile today, I discovered that I definitely enjoy (examining) traits that involve more measurements and calculations. My favorite part of the day was being able to measure all of the different bones that could possibly be used to (estimate) stature and then use those measurements in a formula to estimate potential stature. It was particularly interesting to me that when calculating stature using bones from the arm, like the radius, did not produce a numeric value close to values produced when using leg bones, such as the femur and tibia. This leads me to think that bones that support most of our body weight are more helpful in determining stature. On the other hand, I did not enjoy and actually struggled to determine traits that are more subjective, like ancestry. During the ancestry assessment I was not able to correctly assess the ancestry of an unknown skull and at times found it quite frustrating that there was really no exact answer for characterizing some traits. Even though I struggled at times, I can clearly see how important being able to produce an accurate biological profile can be. I am really looking forward to being able to improve my skills in creating biological profiles because I know that will be a helpful skill in my future career.”

Sarah W. – Participant


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