Texas State Receives Grant From National Institute Of Justice For Skeletal, Dental Research

SAN MARCOS – Texas State University has received a $785,000 grant from the National Institute of Justice to improve understanding of age-related skeletal and dental traits, which will aid in the identification of unknown human remains.

Kate Spradley, a professor of anthropology with the Forensic Anthropology Center (FACTS) at Texas State, is co-principal investigator on the project, “Subadult ancestry estimation using craniometrics, macromorphoscopics, odontometrics and dental morphology.” Spradley will focus on the craniometric analysis portion of the grant.

Currently, forensic and biological anthropologists use skeletal and dental traits as predictors to assist in determining the ancestry of adults.

These skeletal and dental traits are less reliable for use on younger individuals, because the age at which these traits become fully developed and stable has not been studied.

The use of permanent teeth to help estimate ancestry is well-studied and these teeth begin to emerge in childhood. However, less is known about the role “baby teeth” can play in the the estimation of ancestry.

The study will attempt to determine from what age forensic anthropologists can confidently estimate ancestry and identify how the predictive ability of cranial and dental traits vary throughout childhood development.

Extensive cranial and dental measurements will be collected on a large and geographically diverse sample of U.S. children of known ancestry from infancy through 20 years of age.

All data will be collected from CT scans generated at the Office of the Medical Investigator, New Mexico, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Maryland, and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Dentistry.

To ensure the true diversity of the U.S. is captured, the data will cover geographically and socially diverse populations. 

Ultimately, the research will provide insight into the cranial and dental development of children and young adults, improving the ability of anthropologists to estimate ancestry and increase identification rates of individuals between birth and 20 years.

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