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

Current Practices in Physical Anthropology for Sex Estimation in Unidentified, Adult Individuals


Anthropology, University of Manitoba

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The research presents an analysis of the methods currently employed by physical anthropologists to estimate sex in unknown, adult individuals encountered in forensic and archaeological contexts. Sex estimation is generally the first step when constructing biological profiles, primarily because many of the methods for the remaining parameters are sex-specific; however, the methods employed and way in which results are reported varies considerably by practitioner. By understanding the degree of variability, method preference, and modes of reporting, we as a field can work towards standardization for sex estimation practices.

An electronic, 32 question survey on sex estimation practices was created and participants were recruited from professional anthropology organizations. The survey software double-blinded all identification information, so participation was anonymous. Responses were received from 154 individuals. The pelvis was preferred as the best indicator of sex (89.8% selected as first choice), followed next by the skull (69.1% selected as second choice), and then by the long bones (73.7% selected as third choice). Traits listed in Standards (Buikstra & Ubelaker 1994) ranked highest for the skull and for the pelvis, the three traits of Phenice (1969) ranked highest for non-metric methods. For metrics, FORDISC (Jantz & Ousley 2005) was the preferred method. Most practitioners (62.6%) prefer to use both qualitative and quantitative methods; however, when both are not used, non-metric methods (25.9%) were used twice as much as metric methods (11.5%). These findings highlight the variability in the methods used for sex estimation and the need for discussion and standardization within the field.

Financial support provided by the University of Manitoba Graduate Fellowship and the Manitoba Graduate Scholarship.

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