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They may also have to communicate with distressed and bereaved relatives.

The methods most often used are based on visually determining various morphological, age-related changes in the skeleton (or teeth, although odontological methods are not reviewed in this paper).

As such, these methods are all relative: ie, they do not obtain results in calendar years but estimates of the age at death, often with a rather large range.

This is based on the anatomy and physiology of bone and muscle, as well as artistic knowledge of human form, but may not be admissible as evidence.

Like many other branches of forensic sciences, forensic anthropologists may have to give evidence in court and speak with people who have lost a friend or member of their family.

While aging phenomena occur in non-bony tissues, it was for a long time osseous tissue and teeth that were at the core of most methods.

This was due both to the persistence of these tissues (when most soft tissues would decompose) and the fact that age determination is much-used also in archaeological work, when excavating prehistoric and historic skeletons.

The size and shape of the skeleton can help determine the race, sex, age height and build of the victim, and the bones can help determine the cause of death (accidental, intentional, or through disease), and whether any injury to the bones was before, during or after death (pre-, peri- or post-mortem).

Using computer techniques, forensic anthropologists can create faces from just skulls, which can help in identifying victims.

Forensic archaeologists may be involved in the excavation of mass graves to produce evidence for war crimes trials, or in the collecting and collating of human remains and personal effects at mass fatalities, such as bomb or gas explosions, or plane crashes.

Evidence from forensic archaeologists about how materials degrade or decompose over time and in specific conditions is important, as this can help determine, for example, how long a body has been buried by the state of the clothes or the surrounding soil, or how long stolen goods have been buried by the subsequent damage to metal and other materials.

Forensic archaeologists can date items found in grave sites, including bones, using a range of techniques.

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