While anthropologists recognize the different appearances among different groups of people around the world, these differences are now understood by most as genetic variation within different geographic groups of people and are not considered to imply that, as a result of these differences, there are distinct biological species that exist among humans. Since the conceptual understanding of race has changed in the scientific community within the past century, many anthropologists now argue that the idea of race is best understood as a social construct. A social construct is a concept of classifying people that is created by different cultural standards – not biological principles.
Because humans have become a very mobile species, the process of physical movement over long periods of time has lessened to a large degree the amount of geographic isolation among groups of people on a global level. As a result of the breeding among individuals that come from different genetic backgrounds, forensic anthropologists must therefore be careful when trying to determine the ancestry of an individual. Even so, it is entirely possible to determine accurately the ancestral backgrounds of skeletal specimens.
Among members of the human species, there are numerous cranial and dental features that are helpful to consider when attempting to determine the race of a specimen. These common cranial features can vary in their shape and their presence or absence among different races. It is also important to remember that there is variation in the degree to which these features are shaped and/or present or absent within a racial category, but, in general, the following descriptions of the distinguishing features of each race are what usually occur in each group. Therefore, the variation that exists among different cranial features can help forensic anthropologists to determine accurately the ancestry of an individual.
Examples of cranial and dental features coming soon.