Forensic Science - 06 Skeletons and bones


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A closer look at how skeletal remains can be used as part of a forensic science investigation for Year 9 students and Saint Ignatius College Geelong.

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Forensic Science - 06 Skeletons and bones

  1. 1. DRYSDALE CSI Skeletons and bones. Ian Anderson Saint Ignatius College Geelong
  2. 2. SKELETONS AND BONES In forensics, analysing bones is important for identification of a possible victim or suspect.  The analysis of bones can can help identify someone’s identity, sex, age, height, race and background.  Source:
  3. 3. CHARACTERISTICS OF BONES.  Bones are alive. Made up of cells.  Able to grow and repair.   How many bones are in the human body? 206 in adults.  450 in a baby!  Source:
  4. 4. WHAT BONES CAN TELL US. Our bones contain a record of our physical life.  Analysing bones can reveal your       Age. Sex. Race. Approximate height. Health.
  5. 5. HOW TO DISTINGUISH MALES FROM FEMALES.  A female’s skeleton is usually much smoother and less knobby than a male’s. A male’s skeleton is usually thicker, rougher and appears more bumpy.  Sue to the fact that males have larger muscles and therefore their skeletons require stronger attachment sites. Source: http:// Source:
  6. 6. HOW TO DISTINGUISH MALES FROM FEMALES. A male’s skull is usually bigger and bumpier than a female’s.  Also anatomical differences in  Frontal brow.  Eye orbits.  Lower jaw.  Shape of chin  Source:
  7. 7. HOW TO DISTINGUISH MALES FROM FEMALES. Source: Bertino & Bertino, 2012
  8. 8. HOW TO DISTINGUISH MALES FROM FEMALES. Source: Bertino & Bertino, 2012
  9. 9. HOW TO DISTINGUISH MALES FROM FEMALES. Examination of the pelvis is the easiest method to determine the sex of a skeleton.  Differences in  Subpubic angle.  Length, width, shape & angle of the sacrum.  Width of the ileum.  Angle of the sciatic notch.   Women who have borne children have scars on the surface of their pelvis. Source:
  10. 10. HOW TO DISTINGUISH MALES FROM FEMALES. Source: Bertino & Bertino, 2012
  11. 11. HOW TO DISTINGUISH MALES FROM FEMALES. Source: Bertino & Bertino, 2012
  12. 12. HOW TO DISTINGUISH MALES FROM FEMALES. The femur (thigh bone) of a male is thicker than a females.  The angle of the femur in relation to the pelvis is greater in females than males.  Source: Bertino & Bertino, 2012
  13. 13. HOW TO DISTINGUISH AGE.  The age of a person can be determined by examining certain bones and by looking for the presence or absence of cartilage. Source:
  14. 14. HOW TO DISTINGUISH AGE.  Suture marks on skull. Skull is made up of different segments, with the joins (called sutures) between each segment in a zigzag shape.  In young children the suture marks are soft and then gradually harden and disappear as they get older.  Source:
  15. 15. HOW TO DISTINGUISH AGE.  As a child grows certain bones fuse together, when the cartilage joining them is replaced by bone. When this occurs cartilaginous lines are no longer present.   The age that this occurs is dependent upon the type of bone. The head of long bones (e.g. thigh or upper arm bones) totally fuse to its shaft as a child grows.  The age that this occurs is dependent upon the type of bone.
  16. 16. HOW TO DISTINGUISH AGE. Source: Bertino & Bertino, 2012
  17. 17. HOW TO ESTIMATE HEIGHT.  The measurement of long bones such as the humerus or femur can be used to estimate the height of a person. Calculations are based on mathematical relationships determined from a large pool of people and dependent upon race.  e.g. A femur measuring 40cm belonging to Caucasian male has been found. Using the formula  Height (cm) = 2.32 x femur length + 65.53 his height is estimated to be 158.33 cm (± 3.94).
  18. 18. HOW TO DISTINGUISH RACE. Determination of a person’s race from skeletal remains can be difficult because of the crossbreeding between races that occurs.  Characteristics that differ between races include       Shape of eye sockets. Width of the face. Angulation of the jaw and face. Presence or absence of a nasal spine. Prognathism
  19. 19. HOW TO DISTINGUISH RACE. Source:
  20. 20. DNA EVIDENCE. DNA profiling allows comparison with living relatives to determine the identity of skeletal remains.  Nuclear DNA can be found in the nucleus of white blood cells and other cells.  Bone contains little nuclear DNA, but does contain mitochondrial DNA.  Mitochondria are organelles found in all our cells.  All mitochondrial DNA is inherited from the mother.   Even after body tissues have decayed and any nuclear DNA lost, mitochondrial DNA can still be extracted from the bone.
  21. 21. CASE STUDY. The Romanovs (1918). Source:
  22. 22. CASE STUDY. The Romanovs (1918). On July 16, 1918, the last royal family of Russia—Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, four daughters, one son, and their servants—died at the hands of a firing squad (Figure 13-25). Bolshevik Jacob Yurosky, who commanded the death squad, boasted that the world would never know what had happened to the royal family. That was true for the next 75 years, until a team of specialists including Michael Baden, William Maples, and forensic odontologist Lowell Levine examined the skeletons discovered in a shallow grave outside of Ekaterinburg, Russia. The team was able to determine the age and sex of all nine skeletons. Five were identified as females and four as males. The skulls had all been crushed, making identification difficult.
  23. 23. CASE STUDY. The Romanovs (1918). The bones and teeth helped. One female had poor dental work and calcification of knee joints, indicating a person who had spent time scrubbing floors and doing manual labor. One male skeleton was mature, probably the remains of the royal family physician, Dr. Botkin. The recovered dental plate and skull similarities to a photograph provided evidence to the doctor’s identity. Expensive dental repairs and dental records identified the rest of the royal party. Because some of the leg bones were crushed, height estimations were calculated using arm length. The remains of Anastasia and Alexei, who were 17 and 14, respectively, were not found.
  24. 24. CASE STUDY. The Romanovs (1918). Source:
  25. 25.