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Physical Matches of Bone, Shell and Tooth Fragments: A Validation Study

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The following study examines the reliability of physically matching fragments of bone and other mineral-based biological materials such as shells and teeth. Participants with varying education, training, and experience were asked to complete a matching exercise consisting of intentionally fragmented specimens. Success rates were very high; the positive association (correct match) rate was 0.925, while the nonassociation (overlooked match) rate was 0.075, and negative associations (incorrect matches) occurred at a rate of just 0.001. Results also indicate that those with more education and related experience tended to have higher positive association rates, although not significant statistically. Experienced osteologists, however, completed the matching exercise in significantly less time. Low error rates among both experienced and inexperienced individuals support the reliability and validity of performing physical matches of these materials, and suggest that performance may also be related to an individual’s aptitude for spatial tasks or other factors.

Keywords: Daubert; error rate; forensic anthropology; forensic science; physical match

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Laboratory Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2501 Investigation Parkway, Quantico, VA 22135. 2: Center for Musculoskeletal Research, 301 Perkins Hall, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996.

Publication date: May 1, 2008


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