FOR5018 - Elements of forensic anthropology - 2017

6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Postgraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.


Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences

Organisational Unit

Forensic Medicine


Dr Soren Blau

Quota applies

This unit is quota restricted. Selection is on a first-in, first enrolled basis. For further information, please contact the Postgraduate Course Administrator via email or phone 03-9684 4115.

Unit guides



  • Second semester 2017 (Flexible)


Forensic anthropology is the field of study concerned with the examination of material believed to be human to answer medico-legal questions including those related to identification.

The aim of the unit is to introduce students to the theory and practice of forensic anthropology and provide them with a thorough understanding of the various contributions this discipline makes to forensic investigations.

Although the unit is designed for medical practitioners and practicing dentists, it is likely to be of interest to post-graduate students from a Science and/or Arts background who wish to gain a greater understanding of the types of evidentiary and investigative information that can be obtained when only skeletal remains survive.

The unit will cover:

  • Human skeletal and dental anatomy;
  • Preparing and analysing differentially preserved skeletal remains;
  • Forensic anthropology: identification and analysis of differentially preserved human remains;
  • Developing a biological profile: ancestry, sex, age and stature;
  • Introduction to the analysis of skeletal trauma;
  • The use of forensic anthropology in different cases (domestic cases, Disaster Victim Identification (DVI), human rights investigations);
  • Working with other forensic experts: forensic pathologists, forensic odontologists, molecular biologists, etc;
  • Forensic anthropology report writing; and
  • Cultural and religious issues related to dealing with dead bodies and exhumations.


Upon successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

  1. Explain and assess the role of forensic archaeology and anthropology in the search, location and recovery of human remains.
  2. Identify individual skeletal elements, and formulate a hypothesis in respect to their origin (human or nonhuman).
  3. Evaluate the preservation and condition of human remains, and assess how preservation impacts on techniques employed by forensic anthropologists.
  4. Analyse the principles related to developing a biological profile (estimation of ancestry, sex, age and stature).
  5. Explain the differences between biological and personal identity.
  6. Describe and evaluate the role of the forensic anthropology in the analysis and interpretation of skeletal pathology and trauma.
  7. Appraise the role of forensic anthropology in different contexts of investigation and identification.


  • Essay (25%)
  • Case Studies x 4 (50%) (hurdle)
  • Oral Presentation (25%)

Workload requirements

It is expected that students will need to undertake approximately 12 hours of study per week over the semester. This will include contact time, private study, assessment tasks (case studies, assignments) and, where possible, involvement in casework.

See also Unit timetable information

Chief examiner(s)

Off-campus attendance requirements

Compulsory 2 day workshop.

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study

Additional information on this unit is available from the faculty at: