This summer, University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu Assistant Professor of Forensic Anthropology Jennifer Byrnes and UH West Oʻahu forensic anthropology student Samantha Torres worked on a collaborative research project at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville together with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency’s Gregory Berg and University of Tennessee’s Michael Kenyhercz.
Using specimens from the William M. Bass Donated Skeletal Collection housed at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Forensic Anthropology Center, the researchers set out to examine the jaw of individuals of different ancestries, ages and sexes in order to test the accuracy of measurements and structural features proposed to indicate specific demographic groups. The demographic information of the examined specimens was known, providing the team an invaluable opportunity to compare their results.
Gregory Berg examined portions of the William M. Bass Donated Skeletal Collection for his dissertation research and proposed current analyses of the mandible (jaw) in 2008.
“No specific test of Dr. Berg’s research has been undertaken for these mandibular traits until now,” said Byrnes. “Having individuals with varying levels of experience read and record the traits will reveal how well the trait and measurement descriptions are understood. Since creating a biological profile and reaching an identification is the goal of examining human skeletal remains in forensic anthropology, the accuracy in recording information that could potentially result in different answers is of the utmost importance.”
This collaborative research is meant to advance the field of forensic anthropology by potentially leading to new analyses that quantify multiple physical traits simultaneously in order to associate an unknown specimen with a specific sex or ancestry category.
The project was funded by a UH West Oʻahu Budget and Resource Committee Research Travel Grant.