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What Do We Tell the Sheriff?

Determining Minimum Numbers of Individuals (MNI) for a Scatter of Human Bones



Co Authors:

Phoebe R. Stubblefield
Department of Anthropology
University of North Dakota
phoebe.stubblefield@und.edu

Elizabeth Scharf
Department of Anthropology
University of North Dakota
elizabeth.scharf@und.nodak.edu

Abstract:

Students explore the issues involved in investigating and reporting on a scatter of skeletal remains to the police in this case study.  In addition, the case teaches students about skeletal identification and the quantification of skeletal elements. The case has been used in an introductory archaeology course as well as an upper-division archaeological lab methods class, a senior zooarchaeology and archaeobotany class, and an introductory level forensic anthropology course.

Objectives:
  • Define and use the following concepts/tools for counting bones from a site: NISP (number of identified specimens) and MNI (minimum number of individuals).
  • Recognize a typical ethical conflict confronted by forensic anthropologists.
  • Describe appropriate ethical and professional behavior for forensic anthropologists.
  • Explain the effects of available information on MNI quantification.
Keywords: Bone scatter; bone assemblage; minimum numbers of individuals; MNI; number of identified specimens; NISP; human remains; criminal investigation; chain of command; chain of custody; ethical reporting
Topical Area: Ethics, Scientific method, Science and the media
Educational Level: Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Dilemma/Decision, Interrupted, Role-Play
Language: English
Subject Headings: Anthropology   Forensic Science   Journalism  
Date Posted: 07/02/09
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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