The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

Body mass estimation in paleoanthropological and bioarchaeological contexts: validation with a known body mass modern human sample


Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, Forensic Anthropology Program, Boston University School of Medicine

March 27, 2015 , Archview Ballroom Add to calendar

The utilization of body mass estimation equations in paleoanthropological and bioarchaeological contexts is essential in reconstructing the life-ways of past populations and individuals. Validation of body mass estimation is limited, as few skeletal collections have recorded body mass of accessioned skeletons. This study aims to validate the estimation of body mass in anatomically modern humans, and elucidate the paleoanthropological implications. Two methods commonly used for osteometric estimation of body mass are compared here: femoral head diameter and bi-iliac breath/stature measures.

This study compares these commonly used methods for body mass estimation in a documented sample drawn from William M. Bass Donated Skeletal Collection (n=388) consisting of 154 females and 233 males. All individuals in the sample are of known forensic body mass which range from 36.3kg to 190.5kg.

Results indicate that the methods of body mass estimation from osteometric distances compare well throughout the range of body masses in the sample but osteometric dimensions are poor predictors of forensic body mass in individuals whose body masses are considered underweight and obese (p>0.05).

Although there is reliability in body mass estimates for the middle range of body mass, there are implications for individuals who are variable in form such as obese and underweight anatomically modern humans, and non-human hominids. This study brings into question the reliability of body mass estimates of these individuals. Further investigation of known body mass priors are needed to strengthen anthropological interpretation of past forms and life-ways.