Houston Matters

Forensic Anthropology: What a Corpse Can Tell You

Recently we got an email from the Harris County Institute of Forensic Science, and it was looking for some information on next of kin in the cases of some recent deaths. It’s not uncommon to get emails like that in the newsroom, and it’s always a difficult thing to think about that there are bodies […]


Recently we got an email from the Harris County Institute of Forensic Science, and it was looking for some information on next of kin in the cases of some recent deaths. It's not uncommon to get emails like that in the newsroom, and it's always a difficult thing to think about that there are bodies out there that can't be identified.

The email in particular was sent by a forensic anthropologist, which got us thinking, what is a forensic anthropologist? So we tracked down Laura Ayers, who is exactly that and teaches forensic anthropology at Houston Community College.

She's studied at facilities, known as body farms, that look into human decomposition. She uses this information to reveal causes of death. But what is forensic anthropology and what can we learn from a decomposing body?

Houston Matters' Edel Howlin sat down with Ayers and started by asking her that very question.

MORE: In Texas, A Living Lab For Studying The Dead (NPR, June 30, 2009)

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Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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