There are numerous cases where variables such as time since death, exposure, fire, animal scavenging, and/or human intervention result in partial or full skeletonisation. When soft tissue no longer survives and the skeleton and/or dentition are all the evidence of a deceased individual that remains, the interpretation of cause and manner of death is comparatively more difficult, often made more complex by the fact that contextual information about the events that resulted in the death may be limited or non-existent. This paper provides a comprehensive review of the role of the forensic anthropologist in the examination and interpretation of skeletal trauma. Definitions of trauma and specifically skeletal trauma are provided, followed by a description of the types of skeletal trauma. The processes of the examination, analysis, and interpretation of skeletal trauma are discussed, highlighting important considerations and limitations at each stage. The paper outlines the important foundations that underpin decision-making when forming opinions about skeletal trauma, which include expertise in skeletal anatomy, understanding of bone biomechanics, and information about the context of the case. Finally, the paper summarises the resources available to students and practitioners to assist in augmenting the process of skeletal trauma interpretation.
- forensic anthropology
- skeletal trauma