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How to succeed in anthropology research using traditional and modern equipment

How to succeed in anthropology research using traditional and modern equipment

Similar to the evolving behavior of the human species, anthropology research too has evolved substantially over the years.

Anthropology is the study of humans, human behavior, culture, societies, biological and material remains in the past and present. To undertake this research work, anthropologists rely on specific tools and equipment to investigate sites and carry out their fieldwork. 

As I did not have prior traditional anthropological background, I only became engaged in this discipline when I joined DKSH in 2011. Over this period, I have interacted with both traditional and innovative instruments manufacturers and this has given me a holistic point of view on the evolution of this industry. I see that more and more researchers are combining traditional and modern innovative instruments to deliver optimum and better-quality results to meet the demand of today’s anthropology work.

Let’s look at the various equipment used in different fields of anthropology – forensic anthropology, paleoanthropology and molecular primatology – and how both modern and traditional equipment can work together in the field.

Forensic radiology uses X-rays, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging to identify severely destroyed bodies and potential causes of death. The use of radiology, including X-ray computed tomography (CT) to examine skeletal remains is not new, but the use of postmortem CT (PMCT) in medicolegal investigations by forensic anthropologists is relatively rare.

 

The use of medical or industrial CT technology may be a viable option to forensic anthropologists for digital preservation and to conduct nondestructive analyses of the internal and external structures of bone. The 3D reconstruction can be used for biological profile development, trauma analysis, taphonomic evaluation, identification, 3D digitization and measurement.

 

Gas chromatography separates chemical substances in the body and when used together with mass spectrometry, which measures the mass of molecules in a substance, can help toxicologists identify the amount of poison in a body.

 

Meanwhile, ground-penetrating radar and a proton magnetometer can help identify mass graves. Ground-penetrating radars send waves into the ground to sense the edges of graves as well as the presence of bodies and other evidence.

 

In addition to using common tools and equipment such as shovels, trowels, knives and excavators to investigate sites, many researchers will also use anthropometers to measure and establish human stature with found bones, Boley gauges to measure teeth and spreading calipers to measure head length and breadth.

Paleoanthropology is the study of human origins and evolution. Paleoanthropologists can precisely measure primate, humanoid and human skeletons. They use calipers to measure the size of the cranium and teeth, mandibulometers for the lower jaw and osteometric boards for long bones like the femur.

X-ray micro-CT is gaining importance among paleontologists for studying fossil remains. Due to its non-destructive technique, the application of computed tomography has facilitated major developments in paleoanthropology. Micro-CT proves to be especially suited for studying fossil inclusions in amber, the fossilized resin of trees or rare human fossils.

How to succeed in anthropology research using traditional and modern equipment

Anthropologists who study primates looking for genetic links and differences with humans use very advanced equipment to extract and map a specimen’s DNA and RNA. This includes automated DNA analysis systems that do DNA fragment analysis and sequencing, thermo-cyclers that amplify segments of DNA and real-time PCR systems that assay target genes.

 

Other tools used in this field of research include fluorometers producing dyes that bind to specific chains of DNA, as well as basic anthropological equipment such as skin calipers.

 

To be prepared to cater to this trend, traditional instrument companies undoubtedly need to infuse new and modern technology into their manufacturing processes to make sure that their instruments are always up to date to meet the evolving market demands. For example, GPM Anthropological Instruments has introduced rapid 3D model prototyping procedures to provide tailored instruments efficiently that help researchers excel in their findings.

 

Alongside this, innovative instruments manufacturers need to offer more knowledge on how the technology can be applied to the fields and research work. To further foster the adoption of these technologies, companies need to work with government agencies and academia institutions to help educate relevant researchers and students likewise.

 

For customers who are working in the anthropological field, it is good to approach a business partner who has expertise in both traditional and innovative instruments as well as advice on how best to integrate and adopt both technologies into your research. DKSH, the exclusive distributor of both traditional and innovative instruments, is well positioned to offer your business such expertise and services.

To be prepared to cater to this trend, traditional instrument companies undoubtedly need to infuse new and modern technology into their manufacturing processes to make sure that their instruments are always up to date to meet the evolving market demands. For example, GPM Anthropological Instruments has introduced rapid 3D model prototyping procedures to provide tailored instruments efficiently that help researchers excel in their findings.

Alongside this, innovative instruments manufacturers need to offer more knowledge on how the technology can be applied to the fields and research work. To further foster the adoption of these technologies, companies need to work with government agencies and academia institutions to help educate relevant researchers and students likewise.

For customers who are working in the anthropological field, it is good to approach a business partner who has expertise in both traditional and innovative instruments as well as advice on how best to integrate and adopt both technologies into your research. DKSH, the exclusive distributor of both traditional and innovative instruments, is well positioned to offer your business such expertise and services.

In today’s challenging world where technology advances rapidly, there is still an important role for traditional anthropology tools to co-exist with new innovative instruments and deliver better results. If you are looking further into this trend or have any questions on the subject, do reach out to me.

Read more about GPM anthropological instruments here.

Gabriela Gillot

About the author

Gabriela is based in Zurich and has been with DKSH for seven years helping the company to expand their business in Asia. She has previously worked with several international brands in the life sciences sector and has vast experience developing strong relationships with customers and business partners worldwide.