CHAPTER 6The application of theory in skeletal age estimation

Natalie R. Langley1 and Beatrix Dudzik2

1 Department of Anatomy, Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, Scottsdale, AZ, USA

2 Department of Anatomy, DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine, Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, TN, USA

6.1 Introduction

Physical anthropology and archaeology form the basis of the applied discipline of forensic anthropology. The foundation of physical anthropology in the United States can be traced back to anatomy departments, where anatomists extended their interest in soft tissue variation to the skeletal framework of the human form. The conventional anatomist’s talents lie largely in dissecting, identifying, and describing the range of human variation, but the anatomist as a researcher sets the foundation for questions about the evolutionary relationship between form and function. Early physical anthropologists expanded their anatomical training by studying variation in the context of evolutionary theory to formulate questions about human lifestyle and life history. The ability to interpret human skeletal biology in an evolutionary framework remains a trademark of physical anthropology today. This interpretive structure spans the time frame from the human fossil record to modern forensic casework. As an applied endeavor, however, theoretical foundations are often overlooked in forensic anthropology, and this has been difficult for the discipline to overcome.

This chapter seeks to rectify ...

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