Students from Professor Matthew Velasco's Human Osteology course took a field trip to New York City to visit the Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME). The excursion was intended to provide students with an opportunity to engage with practitioners in the field of forensic anthropology. It not only accomplished that, but also evolved into a learning experience that more deeply engaged the real-world impacts and ethical challenges that surround applied forensic anthropological work.
Prior to the field trip, students attended a lecture in STS by Dr. Jay Aronson, who presented on the politics of the recovery efforts at the World Trade Center site. Dr. Aronson brought up issues regarding the proper treatment, curation, and memorialization of the human remains of those who perished on 9/11. "Since the Office of Chief Medical Examiner in NYC was both professionally involved in --and personally affected by-- the recovery efforts, this was a very appropriate, if haunting, prologue to our field trip," said Professor Velasco.
At the Office of Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Bradley Adams, Director of Forensic Anthropology, hosted the group. Dr. Adams talked through several ongoing forensic cases and showed students the human remains associated with them, giving the students an opportunity to apply their osteological knowledge to actual casework. Dr. Adams also gave a demonstration of their 3D printer, and showed how printed skulls can be used as the basis for forensic facial reconstruction.
Following their visit to the OCME, the group went downtown and visited the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, bringing the experience full circle.
Professor Matthew Velasco would like to thank the NYC Office of Chief Medical Examiner, Engaged Cornell & the Department of Anthropology for making this trip possible. "It was a very memorable and affecting experience for the students," Velasco said.
Course description for ANTHR 4246 - Human Osteology
This is an intensive laboratory course in the study of human skeletal remains. A detailed knowledge of skeletal anatomy is fundamental to forensic anthropology, bioarchaeology, and the medical sciences. This course teaches students how to identify all 206 bones and 32 teeth of the human skeleton, in both complete and fragmentary states. Students will also learn osteological methods for establishing a biological profile (age-at-death, sex, stature, and biological affinity) and documenting skeletal trauma and pathological lesions. Hands-on laboratory training will be supplemented by case studies that demonstrate the importance of human osteology for criminal investigations in the present and the study of health and violence in the past. The ethics of working with human remains are also discussed.
Note: No actual human skeletal remains are represented in the photos.