Research Methods in Human Skeletal Biology

Research Methods in Human Skeletal Biology

1st Edition - September 25, 2012

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  • Editors: Elizabeth DiGangi, Megan Moore
  • eBook ISBN: 9780123851901
  • Hardcover ISBN: 9780123851895

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Research Methods in Human Skeletal Biology serves as the one location readers can go to not only learn how to conduct research in general, but how research is specifically conducted within human skeletal biology. It outlines the current types of research being conducted within each sub-specialty of skeletal biology, and gives the reader the tools  to set up a research project in skeletal biology. It also suggests several ideas for potential projects. Each chapter has an inclusive bibliography, which can serve as a good jumpstart for project references.

Key Features

  • Provides a step-by-step guide to conducting research in human skeletal biology
  • Covers diverse topics (sexing, aging, stature and ancestry estimation) and new technologies (histology, medical imaging, and geometric morphometrics)
  • Excellent accompaniment to existing forensic anthropology or osteology works


Forensic professionals (i.e. physical and biological anthropologists, scientists, researchers), advanced undergraduate and post-graduate students in physical and biological anthropology, professors/instructors teaching research methods courses

Table of Contents

  • Dedication




    About the Contributors

    Chapter 1. Introduction to Skeletal Biology

    Goals of this Textbook

    Why Study the Human Skeleton?

    A Concise (and Abridged) Overview and History of Themes in Physical/Biological Anthropology Relevant to Human Skeletal Biology

    Format of this Book

    How to Use this Book

    Final Thoughts



    Chapter 2. Application of the Scientific Method to Skeletal Biology

    Introduction to Science

    The Scientific Method

    Developing a Research Question: How to Think of and Develop Ideas

    Project Logistics

    Case Study: The Development of a Dissertation Topic

    Final Thoughts



    Recommended Reading

    Chapter 3. Age-at-Death Estimation


    Subadult Age-at-Death Estimation

    Statistics and Adult Age-at-Death Estimation

    Adult Age-at-Death Estimation

    Case Study: Bayesian Theory Applied to the Multifactorial Age Indicator Problem



    Chapter 4. Sex Estimation and Assessment


    Sex Assessment versus Sex Estimation

    Sexual Dimorphism: Intrinsic versus Extrinsic Factors

    Sex Assessment

    Metric Sex Estimation

    Problematic Areas of Sex Estimation

    Case Study: Developing Population-Specific Sexing Standards



    Chapter 5. Ancestry Estimation


    (Brief) History of Race Concept

    Hrdlička, Hooton, and Boas: Three Key Figures in the Development of the Discipline

    Scientific Racism

    Modern Thought About Ancestry

    Ancestry and Forensic Anthropology

    Statistical Approaches

    Case Study: Assessing Ancestry for an Unknown

    Final Thoughts: the Future of Research in Ancestry Estimation and Human Variation



    Recommended Additional Readings and Viewings

    Chapter 6. Stature Estimation


    Methods in Stature Estimation: Then and Now

    Problems with Stature Estimation

    Case Studies: Stature Estimation

    Future Research in Stature Estimation




    Chapter 7. Paleopathology


    Skeletal Stress Markers of Bioarchaeological Value

    Identifying a Pathology

    How to Collect Pathological Data

    The Photo Kit and Photographs/Other Images

    Choosing a Collection: Not in a Vacuum

    Paleopathological Information as a Problem-Solving Tool

    Conclusion: Paleopathology as AN Investigative Tool


    Chapter 8. Investigation of Skeletal Trauma


    Basic Concepts in Bone Trauma

    Types of Trauma in the Human Skeleton

    New Thinking: Skeletal Trauma as a Continuum

    Skeletal Trauma as a Component of Anthropological Research

    Case-Based Analysis

    Case Study: Investigation of Fracture Patterns in Child Abuse Using a Case-Based Approach

    Experimental Skeletal Trauma Research

    Case Study: Experimental Impact Biomechanics Research into Cranial Base Fractures

    Future Directions in Skeletal Trauma Research



    Chapter 9. Taphonomy


    The Taphonomic Research Perspective

    Methodology in Taphonomic Research

    Actualistic Methodology: Natural and Experimental

    Taphonomy and Skeletal Biology: Two Case Studies

    Case Study: Forensic Taphonomy

    Case Study: Archaeological Taphonomy



    Chapter 10. Dental Anthropology


    Teeth: A Brief Introduction

    Tooth Size and Shape

    Tooth Development and Wear

    Visualizing Tooth Growth

    Dental Pathology

    Teeth and Genetic Material

    Isotope Analysis


    Case Study: The Devil Is in the Details

    Moving Forward …



    Chapter 11. Demography


    Starting Data for Demographic Analysis of Skeletal Samples

    Estimation of Sex and of the Sex Ratio

    Estimation of Age and of the Age-at-Death Structure

    What Sex Ratios and Age-at-Death Structures can tell us about Past Populations

    What Role can Sex Ratios and Age-at-Death Structures Play in Forensic Anthropology?

    Conclusion: Wrapping It up


    Chapter 12. Geometric Morphometrics


    Traditional Morphometrics

    Geometric Morphometrics

    Geometric Morphometric Methods

    Current Applications of Geometric Morphometrics in Skeletal Biology

    Conclusion and Additional Resources



    Chapter 13. Bone and Dental Histology


    Bone Histology and Anthropology

    Basic Concepts in Dental Histology

    Case Study of Dental Histology in Forensic Anthropology: The Problem of Pink Teeth

    So you’re interested in dental histology

    Histological Methods

    Histological Analyses

    Case Studies: Bone histology

    So You’re Interested in Bone Histology



    Chapter 14. Functional Morphology and Medical Imaging


    Basic Bone Biology

    Basic Bone Biomechanics

    Functional Morphology

    Cross-Sectional Geometric Shape Analysis

    Medical Imaging

    Case Study: Functional Morphology, CT, and Bone Density in Action




    Chapter 15. Isotopes


    What Questions can be Answered with Stable Isotope Analysis?

    What are Isotopes?

    Research Design of Stable Isotope Projects

    Case Study: Archaeological Research Questions with Stable Isotope Data




    Chapter 16. Molecular Methods


    Genetics and Genomics

    Genetics in Anthropology

    Incorporating Genetics into Anthropological Research: What do i need to know?

    Degraded Dna

    Case Study: Setting up a Degraded Dna Analysis

    Case Study: the Trials and Tribulations of Dna Research in Practice

    Application of Dna Analysis to Long-Standing Anthropological Inquiries into Human Variation, its Pattern, and its Explanation

    Future Research Opportunities




    Chapter 17. Library Research, Presenting, and Publishing


    Library and Database Research

    Searching and Obtaining Outside Sources of Funding

    Giving a Presentation


    Case Study: the First Rib and the Photographs




    Suggested Reading

    Chapter 18. Future Research Considerations in Human Skeletal Biology

    Recommendations for Developing Your Aptitude as a Scholar

    Trends in Human Skeletal Biology

    Important Considerations

    Vision Towards The Future





Product details

  • No. of pages: 576
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Academic Press 2012
  • Published: September 25, 2012
  • Imprint: Academic Press
  • eBook ISBN: 9780123851901
  • Hardcover ISBN: 9780123851895

About the Editors

Elizabeth DiGangi

Dr. Elizabeth A. DiGangi received her bachelor’s degree in anthropology and history, magna cum laude, from the State University of New York at Buffalo. While working on her bachelor’s degree, she was one of the recipients of the Howard Hughes Undergraduate Fellowship in Biology where she received her first scientific research experience. She went on to earn a Master’s of Arts degree from the same institution in physical anthropology where she was an Arthur Schomburg Graduate Fellow. Following her Master’s, she moved to Knoxville, Tennessee to earn her doctorate from The University of Tennessee. She has taught extensively, either as an assistant or full instructor of several courses including Human Anatomy and Physiology, Primate Dissections, Human Origins, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Introduction to Physical Anthropology, Prehistoric Archaeology, and of a historical archaeological field school course. While at UT, she was awarded with several consecutive graduate teaching assistantships from both the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She is a member of several honor societies, recipient of several merit-based travel awards, and recipient of the Tennessee Valley Authority Graduate Scholar in Archaeology award. She became tenure-track instructor of Anthropology at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville before completing her doctorate degree. Dr. DiGangi currently lives and works in Bogotá, Colombia, where she is contracted as a consultant for the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP). In this capacity, she is charged with providing advisement, training, and equipment for the country’s professional forensic anthropologists and other scientists who work on exhuming and identifying the remains of victims of the Colombian conflict. Since 2008, she has coordinated, taught, and/or developed 23 courses in forensic archaeology, osteology, skeletal trauma analysis, and research methods, training over 450 professionals. Her research interests include age-at-death estimation in skeletal remains, health of prehistoric populations, and challenges and ethical considerations of work in anthropology outside of academia. She has presented her original research at annual professional conferences including the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, American Association of Physical Anthropologists, Paleopathology Association, and Asociación Latina de Antropología Forense. Her publications have appeared in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology and the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. She is currently organizing a multi-faceted research program using Colombian anthropologists as primary researchers to create skeletal standards of the biological profile for the Colombian population.

Affiliations and Expertise

Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY, United States

Megan Moore

Dr. Megan K. Moore graduated from the Ohio State University with honors distinction in Anthropology. She received two scholarships to conduct her honors thesis research in Athienou, Cyprus on population distance using adult odontometrics of individuals from a Medieval cemetery. Dr. Moore completed a Masters of Science degree at the University of Oregon, Eugene, in Anthropology. She received a Graduate Teaching Fellowship in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Oregon. From 1999-2000, she worked as a Forensic Anthropologist with the Physicians for Human Rights in Cyprus to exhume and repatriate the remains of approximately two hundred soldiers killed during the war between Turkey and Greek Cyprus in 1974. Dr. Moore received her Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 2008. During her doctoral program in Tennessee, she worked as a Graduate Research Assistant for the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering, the Department of Anthropology, and as a Graduate Teaching Assistant for the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Her dissertation, "Body Mass Estimation from the Human Skeleton" was funded by a dissertation fellowship from the National Institute of Justice and examined the adaptations of the modern human skeleton to the body mass extremes of obesity and emaciation using computed tomography, densitometry and analysis of skeletal pathology. She spent several months in Bogotá, Colombia training Colombian forensic scientists; these courses include Forensic Archaeology; Advanced Forensic Archaeology; Skeletal Trauma Analysis; and Research Methods in Human Skeletal Biology. She has taught a wide variety of lectures and labs in US institutions including: Introduction to Biological Anthropology; Human Adaptation; Anatomy and Physiology; Evolution of Monkeys and Apes; Nutritional Anthropology; Human Genetics; and Human Growth and Development. She has authored and co-authored articles appearing in Forensic Science International, the Journal of Forensic Sciences and the Journal of Forensic Identification. In addition, she has presented papers at professional meetings and conferences including International Congress on Obesity, American Academy of Forensic Sciences, American Association of Physical Anthropologists, Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering and the International Association for Identification. Dr. Moore currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. She pursues research on the effects of obesity on the growing adolescent skeleton in collaboration with the Bone and Joint Injury, Prevention and Rehabilitation Center in Ann Arbor. Dr. Moore is the faculty advisor of the Anthropology Club and Amnesty International and an active member of the Institutional Review Board at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Affiliations and Expertise

Department of Behavioral Sciences, University of Michigan - Dearborn, Dearborn, Michigan, USA

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