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Research Methods in Human Skeletal Biology - 1st Edition - ISBN: 9780123851895, 9780123851901

Research Methods in Human Skeletal Biology

1st Edition

Editors: Elizabeth DiGangi Megan Moore
Hardcover ISBN: 9780123851895
eBook ISBN: 9780123851901
Imprint: Academic Press
Published Date: 25th September 2012
Page Count: 576
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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





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






No. of pages:
© Academic Press 2012
25th September 2012
Academic Press
Hardcover ISBN:
eBook ISBN:

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


"…this book aims to assist students in developing a research focus and learning appropriate methods in order to build a strong foundation for future work." --Evidence Technology Magazine, July-August 2013

"This book is designed as a textbook for advanced undergraduate and beginning graduate students in modern human skeletal biology with the goal of providing more detailed introductions to the many techniques available than do other books…Most chapters include case studies exemplifying the approaches and their results; a glossary adds value. Valuable for classroom and library use." --Choice, July 2013

Ratings and Reviews