I am excited to announce the official launch of the Forensic Anthropology: A History!

The impetus for this project was to create a tool for new students interested in forensic anthropology. The website is an interactive guide for students ranging from historical events, graduate program information, and visualizing data related to the paths of board certified diplomates from the American Board of Forensic Anthropology (ABFA) in an engaging way. In a way, the website allows students to look at the field’s past and towards their own future. The targeted audience for this project is primarily students— from high school through the doctoral level. The personal element of the project will be highlighted through the ABFA diplomate illustrating to students where board-certified professionals have received their doctorates giving students further insight into the field, allowing some illumination into the paths that forensic anthropologists have taken. Multiple types of data visualization to tell a story about the history of the field and the pathway to professionalism related to the discipline.

The first way the website does this is through an interactive timeline. There are four broad periods of forensic anthropology history and specific people and events that every introductory course discusses and new forensic anthropology students should learn. This timeline allows for students to visualize these events in a linear way that goes beyond a textbook. The scholarship includes the professional history of the field, allowing more novice students to grasp where our field has come from and see the direction it is heading. The following references were imperative to the current timeline:

  • Byers, S. N. (2016). Introduction to forensic anthropology. Taylor & Francis.
  • Passalacqua, N. V., & Fenton, T. W. (2012). Developments in skeletal trauma: blunt-force trauma. A companion to forensic anthropology, 400-411.
  • Sledzik, P. S., et al. (2007). The fourth era of forensic anthropology: examining the future of the discipline. In Proceedings of the 59th annual meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Science.
  • Ubelaker, D. H. (2018). A history of forensic anthropology. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 165(4), 915-923.
  • Ubelaker, D. H. (2020). The Historical development of forensic anthropology. Forensic Anthropology, 3(3), 164-170.

Another way the website can be used to visualize the field is through graduate programs. I have accumulated a list of the graduate programs with forensic anthropology foci making an interactive map available to students in one place. With anthropology being a four-field discipline, it is difficult to discern, especially as a high school or undergraduate student, what the options are for a focused education. Having this resource available for students will allow some of the uncertainty and question surrounding graduate programs to begin to dissipate the confusion. Inclusionary criteria for universities listed on this map include: an employed active ABFA diplomates, Forensic Anthropology courses, and a graduate program. If there are programs that meet these criteria, are not included, and you would like them to be added to this map, please contact me.

The data for this section of the project came from various sources. First, data was extracted from the ABFA website specifically the historical list of all diplomates from 1977-2021. This included 153 individuals. I found the information related to where they received their doctorate degrees and was able to create an interactive bar chart by university as well as a radial chart of university degrees by year. This allows students to see historical trends of universities producing D-ABFAs.

Micayla Spiros | 2021-2022 Senior CHI Grad Fellow