Volume 29, Issue 4 (October 1984)
Clarifying the Role of Forensic Anthropologists in Death Investigations
Although their customary role is the identification of decomposed human remains, forensic anthropologists are frequently called upon to provide evidence for or to testify about the circumstances that surrounded a particular death. The literature is ambiguous and contradictory about the role of anthropologists in death investigations. Relying upon traditional distinctions, we present three cases that illustrate the presence of evidence for “manner of death” on decomposed remains. Then we argue that evidence for vital reactions, necessary for the determination of “cause of death,” rarely if ever survives skeletonization, and while forensic anthropologists can be expected to provide evidence for the determination of manner of death, they are unlikely to contribute to the discovery of its cause.