The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Quantifying sexual dimorphism in the cranium: a preliminary analysis of a novel method


Anthropology, The Ohio State University

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Forensic anthropologists and bioarchaeologists must estimate the sex of an individual using only skeletal elements. Several features of the human cranium are useful in estimating sex; these are generally visually assessed and scored using an ordinal scale. This study attempts to quantify six cranial features using three-dimensional coordinate measurements, originally proposed here by the author, to reduce inter- and intra-observer error and to provide a more accurate method for estimating sex.

The features of the cranium used in this study include the supraorbital ridges, glabella, external occipital protuberance, nuchal protuberances, mastoid processes, and frontal bosses. Measurements were taken blindly from 265 male and female crania of known sex representing both White European and African ancestry from the Documented Skeletal Collection at the University of New Mexico’s Maxwell Museum and the Bass Documented Collection at the University of Tennessee. Coordinate calipers and digital sliding calipers were used.

A discriminant function analysis correctly classified males 91% of the time and females 92% of the time, indicating that these measurements are useful for estimating sex in the modern U.S. population. This research is valuable for bioarchaeologists, as well as to forensic anthropologists who must increasingly rely on highly accurate, quantifiable methods for greater courtroom admissibility. Future research will revisit 60 crania to account for intra-observer error, as well as explore the strength of each trait and combinations of traits in estimating sex.

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