CHAPTER 4Theoretically interesting: Different perspectives of the application of theory to forensic anthropology practice and research

Soren Blau

Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine/Department of Forensic Medicine, Monash University, Monash, Victoria, Australia

4.1 Introduction

The word ‘theory’ is derived from a technical term used in ancient Greek philosophy – theōriā, meaning ‘a looking at’, ‘viewing’ or ‘beholding’ – and referred to contemplation or speculation rather than action (Chambers English Dictionary, 1990). The development of a theory, which is a broad explanation of a phenomenon (or phenomena) that is testable and falsifiable and has multiple lines of evidence, together with a hypothesis, forms an integral part of the practice of both natural (‘hard’) and social science (Heger, 2012; DiGangi and Moore, 2013). Anthropology is the study of humans and is an umbrella term that includes social (cultural) anthropology, archaeology, linguistics and biological (physical) anthropology. Anthropology has never been defined as a hard science (Grivas and Komar, 2008; Adovasio, 2012). The discipline of anthropology has its origins in the humanities and social sciences. It is not surprising, therefore, that the development of forensic anthropology as a subdiscipline of physical anthropology and archaeology has involved incorporation of an array of scientific techniques into aspects of practice but does so within a broad social framework. The aim of this chapter is to examine ...

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