Can Skeletons Have a Racial Identity?

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2021-10-20 01:58Z by Steven

Can Skeletons Have a Racial Identity?

The New York Times

Sabrina Imbler

Forensic anthropologists have relied on features of face and skull bones, known as morphoscopic traits, such as the post-bregmatic depression — a dip on the top of the skull — to estimate ancestry. John M. Daugherty/Science Source

A growing number of forensic researchers are questioning how the field interprets the geographic ancestry of human remains.

Racial reckonings were happening everywhere in the summer of 2020, after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis by the police. The time felt right, two forensic anthropologists reasoned, to reignite a conversation about the role of race in their own field, where specialists help solve crimes by analyzing skeletons to determine who those people were and how they died.

Dr. Elizabeth DiGangi of Binghamton University and Jonathan Bethard of the University of South Florida published a letter in The Journal of Forensic Science that questioned the longstanding practice of estimating ancestry, or a person’s geographic origin, as a proxy for estimating race. Ancestry, along with height, age at death and assigned sex, is one of the key details that many forensic anthropologists try to determine.

That fall, they published a longer paper with a more ambitious call to action: “We urge all forensic anthropologists to abolish the practice of ancestry estimation.”

In recent years, a growing number of forensic anthropologists have grown critical of ancestry estimation and want to replace it with something more nuanced…

Read the entire article here.

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