McClung Museum opened a Forensic Anthropology exhibit on Jan. 19 that has everything from real human bones to pictures of decomposing bodies.
Lee Meadows Jantz, an anthropology professor and coordinator for the Forensic Anthropology Center, also known as the "body farm" has been involved with the exhibit from the start.
The idea for a forensic anthropology exhibit was first proposed in late summer of 2007, and the design was laid out in mid-fall at which point professors and students began to set aside specimens for the display Jantz said.
The McClung Museum is a general museum with collections in anthropology, archaeology, decorative arts, local history, and natural history. The exhibits document ways of life, cultural trends, and technologies from prehistoric times to the present day, and showcase much of Tennessee's past -- its geology, history, art, and culture. The McClung Museum is a special place -- a place of discovery, a place to learn about the world around us. The McClung Museum is accredited by the American Association of Museums.
The exhibit will show examples of body identification methods and how information about the body can be gathered.
"As forensic anthropologists, one of the first things we determine is whether a bone is human or non-human, we look then at growth and development and what stage of life they're in. We determine the sex, age and ancestry, stature and then we look at trauma and disease," Jantz said.
The exhibit will showcase examples of each of these factors in addition to dental identification and facial reconstruction, which is a last resort for identification Jantz said.
One display shows a crime scene and the steps the forensic scientist goes through to identify the body and preserve the scene, complete with a life-size floor picture.
As coordinator for the Forensics Anthropology Center, Jantz is responsible for body donations. Most are unclaimed bodies from hospitals, but a good number of them are bodies that have been donated to science Jantz said.
"The state of Tennessee has a law that requires donation of those unclaimed bodies to science. We have the largest collection of modern Americans and it's getting bigger all the time. There are over 1000 people on file for future donations," Jantz said.
The exibit is open to the public from Jan. 19 to May 7.
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Why forensic anthropology is so important?
Forensic anthropology is the application of the science of physical anthropology to the legal process. Methods and techniques to assess age, sex, stature, ancestry, and analyze trauma and disease are generally developed to help anthropologists understand different populations living all over the world at different times throughout history.
The field of forensic anthropology is relatively new. Although there were famous grisly murders of the 19th century solved through examination of bones and body fragments, it wasn't until the 1930s that the relationship between anthropology and the police was formally acknowledged. The gangland murders of the 1930s forced the FBI to turn to physical anthropologists.
It is a method of studying the skeleton to cases of unknown modern remains, we are using osteology in a legal context; therefore we are practicing forensic anthropology (forensic means legal). Forensic anthropologists help identify individuals who died in mass disasters, wars, or due to homicide, suicide, or accidental death.
The identification of skeletal, badly decomposed, or otherwise unidentified human remains is important for both legal and humanitarian reasons. Forensic anthropologists apply standard scientific techniques developed in physical anthropology to identify human remains, and to assist in the detection of crime.
Forensic anthropologists frequently work in conjunction with forensic pathologists, odontologists, and homicide investigators to identify a decedent, discover evidence of foul play, and/or the postmortem interval. In addition to assisting in locating and recovering suspicious remains, forensic anthropologists work to suggest the age, sex, ancestry, stature, and unique features of a decedent from the skeleton.
In many cases after identity of an individual is made, the forensic anthropologist is called to testify in court regarding the identity of the remains and/or the trauma or wounds present on the remains.
Forensic archaeology uses classic archaeological means for the systematic recovery of buried remains and other artifacts of the burial. Information can also be gleaned by the analysis of pollen, soil, seeds, and insects excavated from the site. These are all recovered and documented if archaeological training is used.