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Positive Personal Identification of Human Remains Based on Thoracic VertebralMargin Morphology

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Radiography has long been used by anthropologists to establish positive personal identification of human remains in forensic cases. These methods have been largely ad hoc and depend upon specific congenital or pathological bone markers. Court rulings, such as Daubert and Mohan have, however, pushed the discipline toward more statistically supportable methods of identification. This study describes the use of normal morphological variation of the thoracic vertebrae to identify human remains. Radiographs from healthy, male individuals, aged 18–55 were examined to identify normally varying features of vertebral morphology. The frequency of occurrence of these features was calculated, tested, and found to be stable in the given sample. The frequencies were compared to establish which sets of traits varied independently of one another. Finally, unknown radiographs were compared to known samples to test the applicability of this method in determining positive identification, with 21 of 24 (87.5%) unknown radiographs positively identified.
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Keywords: forensic anthropology; forensic science; human remains; morphology; natural variation; positive identification; thoracic; vertebrae

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto at Mississauga, 3359 Mississauga Rd. N. 212, NB, Mississauga, ON L5L 1C6, Canada.

Publication date: 2010-09-01

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