Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is Forensic Anthropology?
Forensic anthropology is the application of the science of physical anthropology, especially human osteology, to matters of legal interest, usually at the request of law enforcement agencies or medicolegal authorities (e.g. medical examiner or coroner). Casework may include remains which are badly decomposed, skeletal, burned, fragmentary, or have some form of skeletal trauma.

Can I visit the laboratory?
Representatives of agencies submitting cases are welcome to accompany their cases to the lab or to meet with us to discuss our findings. Due to the necessity of maintaining high standards of security, access is restricted to laboratory personnel and representatives of submitting agencies.

How do I submit a case?
Submissions should be made through the evidence control section of the Center for Human Identification. Please include copies of your scene report, any drawings or maps made of the scene, and photographs from the scene and morgue. For further information regarding the submission process, please contact evidence control by phone at
800-763-3147 or via e-mail at Assistance with an associated NamUs entry can be provided by the Forensic Services Unit.

Submission paperwork may be downloaded here: Unidentified Human Remains Submission Forms

How should I package remains for shipment?
"Dry" skeletal material should be packaged in paper or other breathable packing material. Insure that packaging and cushioning is sufficient to prevent damage from movement during shipping. Contact us prior to packaging and shipping if you are sending "wet" remains. As all cases are unique; feel free to contact us prior to the shipment of remains with specific questions.

Why do we ask for scene reports and photos?
Since we are often not able to attend the recovery scene, these resources allow us to view the remains within the recovery context. These documents are treated as confidential material and are only used internally in conjunction with the remains analysis.

Can I submit partial remains?
We will gladly examine partial remains if that is what was recovered at the scene rather than a complete skeleton. Please submit all remains that were recovered so that we can provide you with the greatest amount of information possible. Additionally, analyses based on only a portion of what was recovered may raise questions in the courtroom for both our laboratory and your agency.