Dr. Alison Brough – Forensic Anthropology and Computed Post-Mortem Tomography

Biography: Dr. Alison Brough is Post-Doctorate Research Associate in the East Midlands Forensic Pathology Unit at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom. Her areas of research interest include forensic anthropology, post-mortem computed tomography, imaging, forensic radiology and the applications of forensic technologies to disaster victim identification. Dr. Brough is a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute of London and recently attained Level 3 Forensic Anthropology certification.

Dr. Brough graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Honors) from the University of University of Dundee in Forensic Anthropology in 2009. She completed her Doctor of Philosophy degree in 2014 at the University of Leicester. Dr. Brough’s research project during her dissertation was ‘ Computed Tomography Assessment of Bone and Teeth of the Developing Child’ undertaken under the supervision of Professor Bruno Morgan, Consultant Radiologist, and Professor Guy Rutty, Home Office registered Forensic Pathologist. She is an active member of the International Society of Forensic Radiology and Imaging (ISFRI) and a sub-committee member of the Working Group for Disappear Victim Identification (DVI).

Dr. Brough’s dissertation project was designed to assess: a.) The use of computed tomography, versus traditional radiological, anthropological and odontological techniques, for the identification of the developing human skeleton, and; b.) The application and limitations of computed tomography for investigating childhood skeletal trauma related to non-accidental injury and child death in the context of mass fatality incidents. As of this writing, she has been listed in 6 first author publications in the scholarly journals focused primarily on the subject of forensic imaging, post-mortem computed tomography and multi-detector computed tomography-affirming reliability.

Working with a research team at the University of Leicester, Dr. Brough is conducting pioneering research into several aspects of post-mortem computed tomography (PMCT), working towards the introduction of a near virtual autopsy in routine forensic practice. This is in keeping with Dr. Brough’s research practice assumptions and limitations, which include a keen awareness of local burial practices forbidding physical autopsies and the fact that PMCT is a relatively new sub-specialty of forensic science with no internationally established standards for image acquisition, image interpretation and archiving.

 

 

Dr Alison Brough

(Photo of Dr. Alison Brough, University of Leicester, 2015)

What Is Biological Anthropology?

What Is Biological Anthropology?

Biological or Physical Anthropology is human biological diversity in time and space (Kottak, 1994). Biological Anthropology is the study of human potential from both the physiological and psychological perspective (Royal Anthropological Institute, 2010) Forensic Anthropology, Evolutionary Anthropology and  Primates are all a part of the central organizing concepts of Biological Anthropology (Royal Anthropological Institute, 2010). Much of the potential for variation in Biological Anthropology is a result of genetic and environmental features.

The focus on human variation unites five special interests within Biological Anthropology:

  • Hominid evolution as revealed by the fossil record (paleoanthropology)
  • Human genetics
  • Human growth and development
  • Human biological plasticity (the body’s ability to cope with stresses, such as heat, cold, and altitude)
  • The biology, evolution, behavior, and social life of monkeys, apes, and other nonhuman primates (Kottak, 1994).

Biological Anthropology’s research interests link it to other fields including biology, zoology, geology, anatomy, physiology, medicine and public health.  Osteology, the study of bones, helps paleoanthropologists, who examine skulls, teeth and bones to identify hominid ancestors and chart changes in anatomy.  Biological anthropologists also collaborate with archaeologists in reconstructing biological and cultural aspects of human evolution (Kottak, 1994).

Biological Anthropology informs us as to how humans are special animals but it also allows us to nest humans as a tranche of animals in both the biological and ecological world (Royal Anthropological Institute, 1994).

References

Kottak, Conrad Philip. 1994 “The Subdisciplines of Anthropology” In Anthropology: The Exploration of Human Diversity, Sixth Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Royal Anthropological Institute’s Discover Anthropology Programme, What Is Anthropology?, YouTube Video entitled “What Is Biological Anthropology?” (February 11, 2010).

 

 

Homo antiquus: Ferguson’s “Find” or “Folly”?

 

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(Pictured above: A skull of Australopithecus africanus)

 

Walter W. Ferguson (1984) argues that the discovery of several hominoid fossils in Hadar, Ethopia is a part of a new species, Homo antiquus.

Hadar or the Hadar Research Project Area is the widely accepted name for the archaeological site approximately 300 Km (180 Miles) northeast of Addis Ababa in the Afar Rift System of the Rift Valley of Africa. The Hadar ecology is one of mountain building, faults and volcanoes. The Hadar Formation is a major region of physical geography in Africa and is approximately 3.4 million to 3 million years old (Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Human Evolution, 2011).

The vast majority of the hominins found at Hadar have been attributed to Australopithecus afarensis on the basis of their dental and gnathic similarities to specimens from Laetoli. A small number of the hominin fossils found at Hadar have been attributed to Homo habilis (Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Human Evolution, 2011). Morphologically, the Hadar Homo denotes a pre-habilis stage of hominiae dentition distinctive for its small size and plesiomorphic features. Since Hadar Homo antiquus can thus be distinguished from Australiopithecus afarensis and the Hadar Homo on this basis. Positioned on the phylogenic bush between Australopithecus afarensis and Homo habilis and next to Australopithecus africanus, this new species is estimated to be between 2.3 million to 3 million years old (Carroll, 2003). After first publishing his findings, Ferguson updated his research to include the discovery of a new and earlier sub-species of Homo antiquus defined as Homo antiquus praegens (Ferguson, 1989).

Ferguson’s work isn’t so much controversial as it is not widely supported. Smithsonian Magazine in December of 2012 rated Homo antiquus as 1 of the 4 human ancestors most likely to be ignored. Still, the science behind human evolution during the Plio/Pleistocene Era is full of theories, gaps and knowledge and liberal hypotheses. Ferguson’s attempt to fill the phylogenetic bush might be interpreted as a “folly” today but could be re-interpreted as a “find” if there is additional evidence found in Hadar to back his assertion.

References:

Ferguson, W.W. 1984 “Revision of Fossil Hominid Jaws from the Plio/Pleistocene of Hadar, in Ethiopia Including a New Species of the Genus Homo (Hominodea: Homininae) In Primates 25(4): 519-29.

Ferguson, W.W. 1989 “Taxonomic status of the hominid mandible KNM-ER TI 13150 from the Middle Pliocene of Tabarin, in Kenya. In Primates 30 (1): 69-89.

Dr. Kewal Krishan – Physical and Forensic Anthropologist

Dr. Kewal Krishan is Senior Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Panjab University in Chandigarh, India. His areas of interest include forensic anthropology, forensic osteology, anthropometry, stature estimation, growth and nutritional status. He extensively worked on Gujjars of North-West India. The majority of Dr. Krishan’s publications are in the fields of anthropometry, anthropometrics and forensic anthropology.

Dr. Krishan was a graduate student of Biological Anthropology in, and earned the Doctorate in Forensic Anthropology from, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India in 2003. He was awarded gold-medal for standing first in M.Sc (Honours School) in Biological Anthropology at Panjab University (1994) where he also earned the B.Sc., also in Anthropology. Before joining his current faculty position, he worked as an anthropologist in the Forensic Medicine Department of Government Medical College Hospital, Chandigarh, India.

Dr. Krishan’s M.Sc. supervisor was JC Sharma, editor of the book Anthropology, Population and Development (1995). Professor R N Vashisht, a paleoanthropologist, served as master-mentor for Dr. Krishan’s PhD work at Panjab University. Dr. Krishan started off his graduate career in Paleoanthropology which subsequently informed his doctoral work in forensic anthropology.

Dr. Krishan has published more than 100 papers on various aspects of biological and forensic anthropology including studies of the estimation of stature, bilateral asymmetry, footprints, autopsy room infection, physical growth and nutritional status. His papers are published in Forensic Science International, Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, Legal Medicine (Tokyo), American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology etc. Dr. Krishan’s recent scholarship in forensics, in coordination with other Indian forensic anthropologists, has important implications for disaster anthropology and disaster archaeology.

Dr. Krishan has been nominated as the Editor-in-chief of The Internet Journal of Biological Anthropology and on the editorial board of 11 other international journals. Dr. Krishan is a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, a Fellow of the International Association of Law and Forensic Science and a Fellow of the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners.

 

Dr Kewal Krishan  (Photo of Dr. Kewal Krishan provided by Dr. Kewal Krishna, October of 2014)