Forensic anthropology has been one of the fastest growing medico-legal disciplines both in its contribution to the practical needs of the legal system and research accomplishments. New anthropological standards were developed to apply to a specific population of a region. The purpose of this paper is to analyze a large sample of anthropological forensic cases and to review pertinent literature that deals with anthropological standards developed for the population of the continent of Central and South America. Using Uruguay as an example, there was not a single office or anthropologist assigned to analyze human skeletal remains in Uruguay. In 1991 the Laboratorio de Antropologia Forense at the Morgue Judicial of Montevideo was created. A total of 189 forensic anthropological cases (276 individuals) were analyzed since this date. Twenty six percent of cases involving human remains were positively identified, The majority came from the Departamento de Montevideo, the largest population district of the country. Most of the cases fell into the 60 to 69 years old age range (35%). Females represented 32% of the total. Since the establishment of the laboratory, the number of forensic cases increased considerably from 20 in 1991 to 40 in 1997. The case studies were accompanied with skull-photo superimposition and facial reconstruction when no other evidence for positive identification was available. This service provided by the laboratory was quickly known to coroners, law enforcement agencies, and other legal authorities and thus utilized not only in Uruguay but also in several other countries in the continent. Because of the obvious need for an anthropologist, there are now university programs to provide forensic anthropological education. Yet. research has lagged behind considerably. Deficiencies are obvious in basic osteological standards of estimating age, calculating stature, determining sex and assessing race that can be applied to populations of the continent. Regional standards al-e also needed to estimate postmortem interval, to identify culture specific causes of trauma and other forensic phenomena. Some of these can be remedied if there is a database where the available literature is stored and osteometric information is shared. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.