The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)


An evaluation of medical imaging techniques for craniometric data collection

AISLING M. SMYTH1, MARK D. VINER2, GERALD J. CONLOGUE3, SARAH A. BROWNLEE4 and GARY P. ARONSEN4.

1Defence and Security, Cranfield Forensic Institute, 2Defence and Security, Inforce Foundation, Cranfield University Forensic Institute, 3Bioanthropology Research Institute, Quinnipiac University, 4Department of Anthropology, Yale University

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The acquisition of direct anthropological measurements from human remains is sometimes difficult when dealing with freshly deceased or recently recovered individuals (i.e., mass burials). Maceration of these remains raises ethical, cultural and religious issues, and, in the United Kingdom, is in conflict with the recommendations of the Clarke enquiry. The advent of modern digital imaging techniques offers alternative methods for gathering anthropological data non-invasively.

Here, we evaluate the viability of two modern imaging methods; Multi-Detector Computed Tomography (MDCT) Scanning and Computed Radiography (CR) for recording cranial measurements to aid human identification. Twenty skulls from a museum collection were examined using both MDCT and CR. Five standard measurements were taken from each cranium using both techniques. These measurements were compared with direct physical measurements taken using digital sliding and spreading calipers.

The results indicate that measurements taken from CT scan images were as accurate as direct osteometric measurements, while measurements taken from CR images were affected by magnification proportional to the distance of the anatomical landmark from the image receptor. It is recommended that CT images should be used as the method of choice for taking craniometric measurements from fleshed remains, and an accurate and reproducible magnification correction method must be applied for CR imaging if this is the only option. Improved methods and portable technology will have legal, forensic, and morphometric applications, and refine and improve field identification methods.

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