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

Age-at-death estimation of pathological individuals. A complementary approach using teeth cementum annulations


1Department of Anthropology, Appalachian State University, 2Laboratoire d’Anthropologie, Communauté d’Agglomération du Douaisis, Direction de l’Archéologie Préventive, 3Laboratoire d’Analyses Physiques et de Caractérisaon des matériaux, CADDAP, 4Laboratoire Anthropologie Biologique, Université Lille Nord de France, 5UMR 5199 PACEA, Université de Bordeaux I, 6Laboratoire d’Anthropologie, Institut royal des Sciences naturelles de Belgique

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Recently, the value of cementum annulations (TCA) for age-at-death determination was confirmed for bioarchaeological research. Use of TCA for early Holocene specimens from India demonstrated systematic biases in the morphological methods, had a demonstrable impact on the age pyramid, and significantly changed paleodemographic statistics. While TCA may provide greater accuracy and precision for age estimation of skeletally healthy specimens, it is unclear the magnitude to which specific pathologies affect the accuracy of different techniques for age determination. We hypothesized that age determination methods based on gross morphological changes in the skeleton will not accurately predict age-at-death for individuals with bone growth pathologies (achondroplasia, osteomalacia, osteogenesis imperfecta). Conversely, for adult individuals with chronic and severe rhino-maxillary infections, acellular cementum formation may be disrupted and thus morphological methods should be preferred. We compared age estimates from TCA with estimates made using standards for determination from the pelvis, fourth rib, dental attrition, and cranial stenosis. Results demonstrated that morphological techniques produce variable and inaccurate age estimates for pathological specimens in archaeology. Our results confirm the utility of cementum annulations for age estimation in bioarchaeology, particularly for pathological specimens, and suggest directions for additional research on the effects of pathology on the accuracy of various aging techniques.

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