The 87th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2018)

Sex Differences and the Forensic Application of Skeletal Stress Markers: A Correlation Study of Dental and Postcranial Indicators of Non-Specific Stress


Anthropology, New York University

April 12, 2018 , Zilker 1/2/3 Add to calendar

Skeletal stress indicators have provided important bioarchaeological insights into prehistoric populations, but are rarely used in forensic contexts. Incorporating linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH)—a non-specific indicator of stress—into forensic biological profiles has proved a promising method for identifying and repatriating the remains of undocumented migrants. However, the relationship between LEH and other postcranial stress markers in recent populations is unknown. Furthermore, sex differences in trait correlations are not fully understood. This study considers sex differences and the relationships between LEH, Harris lines, cortical bone thinning, and stunted stature in a recent (1900’s) skeletal collection through multiple regression models and correlation analyses. The correlations observed between Harris lines and cortical bone thinning (ranging from -0.289 to -0.559) tentatively supports the hypothesis that Harris lines are more indicative of periods of increased growth velocities than periods of malnourishment and arrested growth. However, future studies should consider the interaction between these measures histologically at higher resolutions. Despite the known differences in the long bone development patterns between males and females, no significant sex differences in postcranial trait expression were observed (p= 0.260). Additional results from the data condensed into new age groups (0-18, 19-34, 35-49, and 50+) are currently pending. Incorporating non-specific stress indicators into forensic analyses requires the independent consideration of traits coupled with an in-depth analysis of life history events. While not practical for all forensic case work, this approach might aid the identification and repatriation of individuals with sparse antemortem data, such as undocumented migrants or long unidentified individuals.