Forensic Anthropologists | Anthropology | SIU

Southern Illinois University



College of Liberal Arts

Complex for Forensic Anthropology Research

We do not provide tours of CFAR.

What is Forensic Anthropology?

Forensic Anthropology is the application of the science of biological anthropology to the legal process.  Forensic Anthropologists contribute to legal cases in a variety of ways, including recovery of skeletonized and badly decomposed human remains from the field, analysis of human remains for elements of the biological profile (age, sex, ancestry, and height), identify trauma and its potential cause, estimate the length of time the individual has been dead (the postmortem interval), and provide information that may be useful in the process of positive identification.

Complex for Forensic Anthropology Research (CFAR)

The Complex for Forensic Anthropology Research at Southern Illinois University is an outdoor research laboratory.  We focus our efforts on research, training, and service in forensic anthropology.


  • The current primary research focus at CFAR is on establishing and understanding the rate and pattern of decomposition in the unique southern Illinois environment. 
  • A secondary, but equally important, research focus at CFAR is on replicating common clandestine body disposal circumstances and working to understand the processes of decomposition under different disposal circumstances and how the body disposal circumstance can be identified after skeletonization.
  • The growing skeletal collection allows researchers to study modern human skeletal variation, trauma, and disease.


  • CFAR offers one-day training courses to a variety of law enforcement agencies and interested professional organizations.
  • The faculty of CFAR also offer traditional semester-long courses in forensic anthropology and forensic taphonomy through the Department of Anthropology.  Please see the Southern Illinois University Schedule of Classes ( for information on current and future term offerings.
  • CFAR faculty also instruct and supervise graduate students pursuing both master’s and doctoral degrees in anthropology.


  • CFAR faculty provide complete forensic anthropologic services (e.g., body recovery, skeletal analysis, trauma analysis, court testimony, etc.) to a variety of medico-legal agencies.  Please see the Forensic Anthropology Consulting page for more information about these services.
  • The anatomical donation program provides an opportunity for individuals to contribute to science in a direct and meaningful way.
  • Faculty and graduate students provide lectures to civic groups, school-age children, and the general public to promote science and disseminate our research results.  Please contact CFAR to arrange a lecture.