Professor Susan Anton’s Introduction to Forensic Anthropology course offers undergrads an opportunity to learn the key concepts, theories, and methods used to recover, examine, and identify human skeletal remains in real-life legal cases. In the lab, they get to practice these skills using animal and human skeletal material, while guest lectures from practicing forensic anthropologists lend perspective on the field.
“One of the most rewarding class sessions is when we run biological profile labs, using real bones to simulate a forensic crime scene,” explains teaching assistant Emma Kozitzky, a PhD candidate in biological anthropology. In the lab, students are asked to estimate the sex, age, and stature of the human individual using techniques discussed in the class. “It’s an exciting novelty for many and a particularly moving experience for some,” Kozitzky says. “A student might say, ‘This person was a young adult female, like me! What could have happened to her?’”
Kozitzky’s own research focuses on how the anatomy of bones and teeth can be used to reconstruct the evolution of primates, particularly the human lineage. “Scientists in forensic anthropology use similar techniques that I use to look at extinct ape bones,” she reflects. “But the results of their work help people living today who have suffered trauma or lost a loved one.”