Research project

Forensic & Medical Art

Forensic Art aids in the identification, apprehension or conviction of offenders and the location of victims or identification of unknown human remains.

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Start date

September 2019

Completion date

September 2020

This project looks at the craniofacial analysis of unidentified bodies through post-mortem depiction, facial reconstruction, craniofacial superimposition or skull reassembly. Forensic art also involves the production of facial sketches/composites through witness interviews, age progression images and facial image comparison. We are involved in craniofacial research relating to post-mortem decomposition, ancestry determination, craniofacial reconstruction, CCTV identification, transsexual changes, preserved bodies and facial animation. We are also interested in medical visualisation research relating to virtual human dissection, medical education and anatomical variation.

The FAST and efficient international disaster Victim IDentification (FASTID) Project was launched with FP7 EU funding in collaboration with Interpol, Plassdata, Crabbe Consulting, Fraunhofer Institute and BundesKriminalamt. It will establish an international system to manage inquiries concerning missing persons and unidentified bodies in the event of disasters as well as day-to-day policing and will result in the creation of a global Missing Persons and Unidentified Bodies (MPUB) database. Our involvement is with craniofacial identification and the processes necessary to identify mass fatalities using human remains and passport-style ante-mortem images of missing people.

Our research group collaborates frequently with national and international museums and the media, especially relating to craniofacial depiction of people from the past. Examples of this are:

  • J.S. Bach in collaboration with the Bachhaus: Guardian BBC
  • Viking Woman with the Jorvik Centre: Courier
  • Clonycavan man, a bog body, with the National Museum of Ireland: University of Dundee
  • History Cold Case with BBC2 and Shine: BBC

Some of our work is presented in Axis, our online journal for postgraduate and undergraduate student research in the fields of anatomy, forensic anthropology, forensic and medical art, and human identification.

We also have research collaborations with the Catholic University of Leuven; The Anthropological Research Facility at University of Tennessee; Department of Psychology at the University of Texas, El Paso; the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI); the Dental Science Research Institute, Chonnam National University, Korea and on the FASTID project with Interpol, Plassdata, Crabbe Consulting, Fraunhofer Institute and BundesKriminalamt.

The University of Dundee provides the only postgraduate qualification in Forensic Art in the world and is the only centre where craniofacial identification is taught as a specialisation. Tutors are qualified and experienced forensic practitioners. Dundee was the first UK university to run a postgraduate qualification in Medical Art and has led the field in relation to medical visualisation. Tutors are qualified, registered and practising medical artists. In addition, the University offers human dissection study with a high level of realism in colour, texture and movement and this enables optimal depiction and understanding of anatomical structures.


Project lead(s)

Dr Caroline Erolin

Project team

Janice Aitken