Original paper

Forensic anthropology and mortuary archaeology in Lithuania

Jankauskas, Rimantas

Anthropologischer Anzeiger Volume 67 No. 4 (2009), p. 391 - 405

published: Dec 1, 2009

DOI: 10.1127/0003-5548/2009/0030

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ArtNo. ESP140006704006, Price: 29.00 €

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Forensic anthropology (in Lithuania, as everywhere in Eastern Europe, traditionally considered as a narrower field - forensic osteology) has a long history, experience being gained both during exhumations of mass killings during the Second World War and the subsequent totalitarian regime, investigations of historical mass graves, identification of historical personalities and routine forensic work. Experts of this field (usually a branch of forensic medicine) routinely are solving "technical" questions of crime investigation, particularly identification of (usually dead) individuals. Practical implementation of the mission of forensic anthropology is not an easy task due to interdisciplinary character of the field. On one hand, physical anthropology has in its disposition numerous scientifically tested methods, however, their practical value in particular legal processes is limited. Reasons for these discrepancies can be related both to insufficient understanding of possibilities and limitations of forensic anthropology and archaeology by officials representing legal institutions that perform investigations, and sometimes too "academic" research, that is conducted at anthropological laboratories, when methods developed are not completely relevant to practical needs. Besides of answering to direct questions (number of individuals, sex, age, stature, population affinity, individual traits, evidence of violence), important humanitarian aspects - the individual's right for identity, the right of the relatives to know the fate of their beloved ones - should not be neglected. Practical use of other identification methods faces difficulties of their own (e.g. odontology - lack of regular dental registration system and compatible database). Two examples of forensic anthropological work of mass graves, even when the results were much influenced by the questions raised by investigators, can serve as an illustration of the above-mentioned issues.


exhumationsmass killingssecond world wartotalitarian regimehistorical personalitieshumanitarian aspects