A forensic anthropologist combines the disciplines of physical anthropology and human osteology and applying them to the field of forensics, that is to say, situations of legal import. Using methods that include, but are not limited to fiber sampling, footprint identification, facial reproduction, anatomical examination and archaeological excavation, they assist medical and legal practitioners in identifying human remains. Although forensic anthropologists are frequently represented in television programs like CSI and Bones as crime scene technicians, this is not necessarily true.
While some forensic anthropologists are employed in a law enforcement capacity, the definition of a forensic anthropologist does not necessarily include training in the examination and collection of evidence in an investigative capacity. What a forensic anthropologist primarily does is identify human remains, and attempt to establish markers that will indicate more specific aspects of those remains such as age, sex, ethnicity, etcetera. They may also cooperate with other law enforcement scientists to compare the remains with those of known missing persons.
A forensic anthropologist also contributes unique knowledge via a familiarity with the subtleties of the human skeleton. This is useful in the identification of bodily trauma, which is crucial in determining injuries that have occurred as a cause of death or as prior episodes. Such information is relevant not just in an investigation, but in trial as well. While not all forensic anthropologists are learned in the discipline of criminology that is most pertinent to police investigations, they have much to contribute to law enforcement and are a welcome aid to the field.