The human remains found Monday in the Gilgo Beach area likely hold a wealth of information that could take weeks or longer to be fully revealed.
The Suffolk County medical examiner's office will make the first steps toward identification by examining bones, teeth and other features for clues to gender, age range and race, experts said Monday. The initial analysis will also look at skull structure and dental work, which can help the process.
"The more bones you have, the more complete the skeleton, the more accurate and complete that can be," said Dixie Peters of the missing persons unit at the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification.
Even if one or more strong identifying characteristics are found -- a unique dental pattern, for example -- the bones will be sent for DNA analysis.
While that process goes on, detectives will have to concentrate on crime scene evidence, said Lawrence Kobilinsky, chairman of the department of forensic science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
"They'll look for jewelry or scraps near the body," he said. "Only once you have the ID can you can go back and trace records, computer records or phone records. That's when the detective work comes in."
The New York City medical examiner's office has been enlisted for DNA analysis on the Gilgo remains. Suffolk police declined Monday to say what, if anything, has been determined about those found last week.
Extracted genetic material from bones will be run through law enforcement databases in search of a match against a family member or, if samples exist, the victim's own DNA, Peters said. That process that can take as long as two months.
A probable DNA match to a family member may have to be supported by other evidence before the medical examiner confirms the identification.