Theoretical and Methodological Approaches to Understanding Human Migration Patterns and their Utility in Forensic Human Identification Cases
Human migration patterns are of interest to scientists representing many fields. Theories have been posited to explain modern human evolutionary expansion, the diversity of human culture, and the motivational factors underlying an individual or group decision to migrate. Although the research question and subsequent approach may vary between disciplines, one thread is ubiquitous throughout most migration studies: why do humans migrate and what is the result of such an event? While the determination of individual attributes such as age, sex, and ancestry is often integral to migration studies, the positive identification of human remains is usually irrelevant. However, the positive identification of a deceased is paramount to a forensic investigation in which human remains have been recovered and must be identified. What role, if any, might the study of human movement patterns play in the interpretation of evidence associated with unidentified human remains? Due to increasing global mobility in the world's populations, it is not inconceivable that an individual might die far away from his or her home. If positive identification cannot immediately be made, investigators may consider various theories as to how or why a deceased ended up in a particular geographic location. While scientific evidence influences the direction of forensic investigations, qualitative evaluation can be an important component of evidence interpretation. This review explores several modern human migration theories and the methodologies utilized to identify evidence of human migratory movement before addressing the practical application of migration theory to forensic cases requiring the identification of human remains.
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