Forensic anthropologists work with human skeletal remains to determine identity of unknown individuals and recognize evidence relating to the circumstances of death. They use of a variety of methods to determine aspects of an individual’s biological profile such as sex, age, stature, and ancestry. The methods most commonly used have been peer-reviewed and independently tested; practitioners are confident in and familiar with the established methods. The peer- reviewed and empirically tested methods are also the only ones accepted in court under the Daubert standard for scientific evidence. For ethical and legal reasons, forensic casework involving active investigations (e.g., homicide or positive identification of a John/Jane Doe) cannot be discussed. Forensic anthropologists, unsurprisingly, remain internally focused rather than open to sharing.
The commonly used analytical tools in biological profiling methods include regression equations, component analysis, and phase analysis. Such methods are published in scholarly journals, but each article contains the necessary information (e.g., what measurements to take, what equations to plug them into, and the accuracy and error of resulting estimates) spread throughout an extensive report. Buikstra and Ubelaker’s Standards for data collection from human skeletal remains, the acknowledged comprehensive guide in the field, is almost 20 years old and is not absolute.
However, the integration of the traditions of human osteology with contemporary user-friendly, readily accessible platforms is critical to the growth of forensic anthropology as a field. As some researchers in forensic anthropology trend towards the use of three-dimensional imagers, Elliptical Fourier Analysis, and other new, statistically complex techniques, the path is open to bring older, trusted methods into the twenty-first century. Talus also broadly appeals to
bioarchaeologists and paleoanthropologists hoping to determine biological profile on skeletal remains. Talus is the first mobile application for forensic anthropology that aids in the development of the biological profile of an unidentified individual.
Created by Emily Niespodziewanski (PhD Student, Anthropology), Talus compiles dozens of the most commonly used bioprofiling methodologies into one easy-to-navigate application, allowing forensic anthropologists to analyze a skeleton without the usual assortment of hard copies of articles and books. All sources are cited – Talus is a reorganization and new presentation of trusted material, not the creation of untested information or methods.