U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Theory and the Scientific Basis for Forensic Anthropology

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 56 Issue: 6 Dated: November 2011 Pages: 1407-1415
Clifford Boyd, Ph.D.; Donna C. Boyd, Ph.D.
Date Published
November 2011
9 pages
This study examined the role of theory in forensic anthropology.
Forensic anthropology has long been criticized for its lack of a strong theoretical and scientific foundation. This paper addresses this problem by examining the role of theory in forensic anthropology at different hierarchical levels (high-level, middle-range, and low-level) and the relevance of various theoretical concepts (taphonomic, agency, behavioral archaeology, nonlinear systems, and methodological theories) to the interpretation of forensic contexts. Application of these theories to a case study involving the search for the WWII Goettge Patrol illustrates the explanatory power these theories offer to the interpretation of forensic events as the end product of an often complex set of environmental constraints and behavioral interactions and choices. It also emphasizes the importance of case studies in theory building and hypothesis testing. A theoretical foundation does indeed currently exist in forensic anthropology; however, a recognition and broader implementation of anthropological (archaeological) theory is warranted and will further define forensic anthropology as a scientific endeavor. (Published Abstract)