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When DNA is Not Available, Can We Still Identify People? Recommendations for Best Practice

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Recommendations of best practice to conduct identifications in settings with large numbers of victims and technological limitations are provided, based on a sample of 116 cases in which positive presumptive identifications were generated using “traditional” techniques, and were later corroborated through DNA testing. Traditional techniques generally consist of combining witness testimony, personal effects and clothing, anthropological and dental data to corroborate or to exclude the identity of an individual. Experts participating in traditional identifications must develop emic categories to transform objective physical features into recognizable categories by the family, or to do very the opposite—to develop an ethic system by which the expert translates the cues given by a family member into objective categories that are usable in standard forensic and legal contexts.

Keywords: DNA testing; disappearance; emic; ethic; forensic anthropology; forensic sciences; identification; traditional methods

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: May 1, 2008


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