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UCL Centre for the Forensic Sciences

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Sian Smith

Sian Smith

Research synopsis: Exploring the application of 3D/CAD imaging to the investigation of skeletal trauma.

Contact: 35 Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9EZ or email

3D imaging and forensic anthropology

A paradigm shift in forensic anthropology: Over the past decade forensic anthropology has been developed towards greater integration with the forensic science and medical communities. ‘The new millennium of forensic anthropology’ sees forensic anthropologists as integral consultants in both national and international criminal investigations. The accurate analysis of trauma to identify probable weapon classifications is a key role of this new phase. An increased demand for practitioners to contribute to international work in mass disasters, human rights investigations, and war crimes has fostered the global profile of forensic anthropology.

With this increased profile comes an increasing responsibility of forensic anthropologists to demonstrate the robusticity and scientific validity of the techniques we employ. A forensic analysis of evidence must be rooted in sound research-based knowledge, and not solely reliant on personal experience and opinion of individual investigators.

The use of 3D-imaging in trauma analysis: Technological advances accompany the elevated profile of forensic anthropology. 3D-digitisations are increasingly becoming the norm in forensic science; models of crime scenes visually preserve ephemeral and delicate evidence, and function as integral diagnostic tools. 3D-photogrammetry methods have seen only limited application in forensic anthropology so far, but show potential as accurate diagnostic tools in cases of trauma analysis. The methods transitions easily between in situ and lab analysis, are cost-effective, and can be integrated with GIS systems to model the human remains and its surrounding context. The advent of digital diagnostic tools and increased presence of forensic anthropologists in criminal investigations and on disaster victim identification teams continues to stress the importance of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches to work and research in these areas.

Methodology development: There are a number of challenges that can be encountered when analysing human remains; notably where remains have been damaged or otherwise modified hindering the detection and analysis of any evidence. During this project I aim to establish the efficacy of 3D-photogrammetry techniques in overcoming these challenges in trauma analysis, and develop methodologies for in situ and lab-based use.