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The Difficulty of Sexing Skeletons from Unknown Populations


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1 Biological Anthropology and Comparative Anatomy Research Unit, School of Medical Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide 5005, Australia
 

Determination of sex from skeletal remains is performed using a number of methods developed by biological anthropology. They must be evaluated for consistency and for their performance in a forensic setting. Twenty skeletons of varied provenance had their sex determined by 15 existing methods of forensic anthropology (7 metric and 8 morphological). The methods were evaluated for their consistency in determination of sex. No single individual was identified as belonging to one sex exclusively. Ambiguous results were obtained by metric methods for fourteen individuals (70%) and by morphological methods for only five individuals (25%) (Chi-squared = 4.3, df = 1, P < 0.05). Methods which use the size of bones as an indicator of sex perform poorly on skeletal remains of individuals of unknown provenance. Methods which combine morphologic and metric techniques, that is, geometric morphometric analysis, may result in greater levels of consistency.
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  • The Difficulty of Sexing Skeletons from Unknown Populations

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Authors

Ingrid Sierp
Biological Anthropology and Comparative Anatomy Research Unit, School of Medical Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide 5005, Australia
Maciej Henneberg
Biological Anthropology and Comparative Anatomy Research Unit, School of Medical Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide 5005, Australia

Abstract


Determination of sex from skeletal remains is performed using a number of methods developed by biological anthropology. They must be evaluated for consistency and for their performance in a forensic setting. Twenty skeletons of varied provenance had their sex determined by 15 existing methods of forensic anthropology (7 metric and 8 morphological). The methods were evaluated for their consistency in determination of sex. No single individual was identified as belonging to one sex exclusively. Ambiguous results were obtained by metric methods for fourteen individuals (70%) and by morphological methods for only five individuals (25%) (Chi-squared = 4.3, df = 1, P < 0.05). Methods which use the size of bones as an indicator of sex perform poorly on skeletal remains of individuals of unknown provenance. Methods which combine morphologic and metric techniques, that is, geometric morphometric analysis, may result in greater levels of consistency.