Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education

Centre for Forensic Anthropology

The Centre aims to provide excellence in research and education in several areas of interest, leading to professional service provision for the benefit of the global community.

About Us

The Centre for Forensic Anthropology is committed to updating forensic identification standards, developing contemporary population-specific standards, and ensuring that the techniques meet evidentiary requirements for legal submission. This comprises formulation of new forensic and archaeological tools based on novel methods, resulting in increased accuracy of skeletal identification in contemporary and historic death scenarios.

Our Expertise

Age Estimation Standards


The human infant is born with ca. 270 bones and more develop during early childhood. As the body grows and develops these bones fuse to form the adult skeleton that has on average 206 bones. The adult skeleton then begins to degenerate, particularly the joints. Understanding the pattern of growth and deterioration forms the basis of the biological age estimation.

Sex Estimation Standards


Male and female skeletons have biological differences that can be statistically quantified. Some bones, such as the pelvis, are more different between the sexes than other bones, for example the ribs. Knowing which bones are sexually dimorphic, and by how much, can aid the identification process for forensic or archaeological purposes.

Geometric Morphometrics


Geometric Morphometrics is a three dimensional approach for the analysis of size and shape (form) variation in biological objects. In forensic anthropology this allows identification of subtle features that may be attributed to developmental or genetic origins (such as age, sex, or ancestry).

Histomorphometry


Bone microstructure can differ between species and also changes over time in living and deceased individual. These differences and modifications form the basis of histological analyses of bones for species identification of fragmented or burnt bone, and for characterising age related change in humans.

Virtual Anthropology


The Centre for Forensic Anthropology is building a virtual skeletal database of contemporary Australians with known age and sex. A three dimensional and digital record of living and deceased individuals provides a safe and economical platform for researchers to develop population specific standards for estimating a person’s biological profile. This approach can be applied to other global populations who do not have access to large documented skeletal collections.

Ground Penetrating Radar


GPR is a geophysical method that uses radar pulses to image the subsurface. This non-destructive approach uses electromagnetic radiation in the microwave band (UHF/VHF frequencies) of the radio spectrum, and detects the reflected signals from subsurface structures. Sub-surface image data can be viewed in real time and it is stored digitally to allow further post-processing analysis and interpretation. GPR can be used in a variety of media, including rock, soil, ice, fresh water, pavement and structures. It can detect objects, changes in material, and voids.

Forensic Archaeology


Maximising the recovery of human remains and associated artefacts in a culturally sensitive, scientific and professional manner requires a detailed knowledge of the human skeleton. Complex (fragmentary, commingled, disturbed etc.) burials can be excavated efficiently with minimal loss of bone and associated cultural remains. The ability to identify fragmented and juvenile remains is imperative for complete and timely recovery. In most cases preliminary age and sex estimates can be established with remains still in situ; this is especially important for extremely fragile remains which are unlikely to be recovered intact.

3D Imaging


Archaeology is a destructive process which must be recorded with precision and accuracy. Laser scanning provides a highly visual and metrically accurate way to record the archaeological excavation in progress. 3D scanning can also be useful in the post-excavation phase of a project, laser scanning allows material that cannot be removed from a site for cultural, religious, accessibility, or legal reasons to be analysed further in the laboratory.

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Centre Goals

  • Development of population-specific anthropological standards using modern state-of-the-art analytical equipment and methods to forensic science.
  • Integration of geometric morphometric analytical approaches for the identification of unknown human remains.
  • Archaeological and geophysical search and recovery of human remains.

Master of Forensic Anthropology

The Centre for Forensic Anthropology offers a variety of postgraduate options for students interested in undertaking advanced studies in forensic anthropology and develop an in-depth knowledge of the human skeleton. Students can exit with a certificate, diploma, coursework Masters, or continue with Master by Research and PhD projects.

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Venice Field School

A fantastic opportunity to gain practical experience, final year undergrad and postgrad students in archaeology, physical anthropology, or related disciplines are invited to apply for the upcoming 2018 field season.

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Our Staff

Assoc Prof Dan Franklin

Forensic anthropology, population specific anthropological standards, virtual skeletal analysis, geometric morphometrics

Ambika Flavel

Forensic archaeology, population specific anthropological standards, virtual skeletal analysis

Our Current Postgrads

Salina Hisham

Population specific age estimation standards for Malaysian adults, using the skull and pelvis

Ariane Maggio

Histological analysis of human and animal bone

Jacqueline Noble

Population specific age and sex estimation standards for Canada, using the cranium

Lauren Swift

Population specific sex estimation standards for Australian states and Territories, using the skull and pelvis

Jessica Thomson

Assessment of thermal trauma on bone

Amanda Barville

Population specific age estimation standards for Western Australian adults, using dentition

Janae Barnes

Population specific sex estimation standards for Western Australian adults, using the foot

Nur-Intaniah Ishak

Population specific sex estimation standards for Malaysian adults, using the skull and pelvis

Hayley Bourne

Assessment of thermal trauma on dental DNA

Jessica Simmons

Biological profile of reference collections

Jessica Laurier

Population specific standards for Western Australians, using the shoulder

Alumni

Rebecca De Silva

Estimation of sex from the morphometric assessment of metacarpals and phalanges in a Western Australian population

Shalmira Karkhanis

Forensic odontological standards for victim profiling in Western Australia and Central India: studies on the estimation of age and quantification of dental trauma

Magda Kopczyk

Validation of the Iscan phase method of aging using clinical MSCT scans in an Australian population

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