Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Anthropology (Forensic Anthropology Option)

Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Molecular Anthropology

Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Dr. Meradeth Snow

Commitee Members

Dr. Kirsten Green Mink, Dr. Chris Palmer


Forensic anthropology, FORDISC, ancestry, mtDNA, molecular anthropology, crania


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Biological and Physical Anthropology


Current methods for estimating ancestry in biological profiles provided to law enforcement and forensic collections rely heavily on the use of metric and non metric methods such as FORDISC 3.1 and “trait lists.” The reliance on these methods has led to inaccurate and ambiguous ancestry estimations, as many metric and non metric methods are subjective and cannot be statistically tested for error rates. As a result, forensic collections, such as the University of Montana Forensic Collection, could potentially house remains that have been inaccurately curated. In order to test the accuracy of curation in the UMFC, DNA samples were extracted from six individual crania. The samples were then sequenced in order to determine mtDNA haplogroups for each individual, which provide insight into the likely geographic region each individual is from. These results were then compared to FORDISC 3.1 and non metric trait list findings in order to analyze the disparity between method results. The greatest disparity resided between FORDISC 3.1 findings and mtDNA haplogroups. This discrepancy suggests that the widely used metric method of FORDISC 3.1 is not a reliable ancestry testing method and should not be the sole method used to determine ancestry for biological profiles. Instead, DNA evidence, such as mtDNA, Y-DNA, or AIMs should be included when assessing ancestry in order to strengthen estimations for law enforcement and forensic collections.



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