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WIREs Forensic Sci

Ancestry estimation in forensic anthropology: A review

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Abstract Forensic anthropologists assist law enforcement agencies and medical examiner's offices with investigations involving human remains, providing insight into trauma analysis, the establishment of postmortem interval, and the estimation of biological profile data. Ancestry is considered one of the more difficult aspects of the biological profile, due in large part to the complicated relationship between skeletal morphology and social constructs. The methods used to estimate ancestry rely on the correlation between skeletal morphology, geographic origin, and an individual's social race. While there is a well‐documented contemptible history associated with the development of ancestry estimation methods in biological anthropology, many of the more traditional, now antiquated, methods are still used in some laboratories. The push to improve the framework within which ancestry data are analyzed requires validation and reassessment for each method in addition to the development of novel approaches utilizing modern technological advances. An array of software programs designed to aid in ancestry estimation is available. These advances do not signal the end of ancestry‐related research. Indeed, several areas seemingly stagnated by tradition and time require further study through more than simply review and rarefaction. The future of ancestry estimation research centers on: (a) abandoning the trait list approach, (b) rejecting the three‐group model, (c) establishing larger and more representative reference data, (d) assessing the utility of mixed method models, and (e) developing new statistical approaches and updating current software tools. This article is categorized under: Forensic Anthropology > Ancestry Determination Forensic Medicine > Historical Perspectives Forensic Anthropology > Anthropology in Mass Disaster & War Crime Contexts
The three‐group model (e.g., African, Asian, and European) fails to accurately define the wonderfully broad human condition. This mosaic cranium illustrates the range of human skeletal variation from around the globe
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Forensic Anthropology > Anthropology in Mass Disaster & War Crime Contexts
Forensic Medicine > Historical Perspectives
Forensic Anthropology > Ancestry Determination

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