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A thesis presented by
Peter Mayall
The Faculty of Arts
University of Melbourne
in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts by Research
in the field of Classics and Archaeology

Produced on archival quality paper

Research Aim 12
Problems 12
Thesis Organisation 12
Morphological Assessment 14
Population Variability 15
Reference Collections 17
Observer Error18
Preservation and Recovery 18
Statistical Analysis of Ancient Remains.20
Cranium 25
Pelvis. 35
Historical Setting..74
Skeletal Material...77
Analysis of pelvis.85
Analysis of cranium..87
Analysis of postcranial material.89
Summary of results..102
Key Findings 107
Contribution 108
Future Research 108
Summary 109
Appendix 1. Data recording form...110
Appendix 2. Study of techniques for determining sex at the elbow...112
Appendix 3. A study to assess the morphological features of the femur124
Appendix 4. Size of Sample Required for Sex Allocation..127




A thesis presented by

Peter Mayall


The Faculty of Arts

in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of

Master of Arts

in the field of Classics and Archaeology

in the

School of Historical and Philosophical Studies

Classics and Archaeology

The University of Melbourne

Supervisors: Prof. Antonio Sagona
Dr. Varsha Pilbrow




I am very grateful to my supervisors, Prof. Antonio Sagona, Classics and Archaeology,
the University of Melbourne and Dr. Varsha Pilbrow, Department of Anatomy and Cell
Biology, the University of Melbourne for allowing me to participate in the archaeological
excavations at Samtavro in the Republic of Georgia in 20082009 on which this study is
based and also for their support, encouragement, expertise and patience in assisting me
with the preparation of this thesis. I would also like to thank the curators of the osteology
collection at the Museum of London who permitted me to access their database and
skeletal specimens enabling me to research aspects of sex determination which were
relevant to this thesis.



The determination of sex of ancient human remains is frequently difficult for several
reasons. The skeletal material available for investigation is usually in poor condition
being fragmented and fragile as well as incomplete and commingled. In addition, it often
comes from an undocumented population and in numerically small samples,
compounding the problem of obtaining a statistically significant outcome. This study
aims to examine methods currently available for sex allocation focusing especially on
those which can be usefully applied or modified to analyse ancient, fragmentary,
incomplete and undocumented material. The available methods are then employed to
determine the sex of human remains recovered from the ancient burial ground at
Samtavro, Georgia. Sixty skeletal individuals were assessed using cranial and pelvic
components as well as postcranial material. This analysis allowed the sex to be
estimated for 87 per cent of the adults with a concordance between criteria of at least 80
per cent.

List of Tables

Table 1. Ranked cranial traits according to their accuracy 29
Table 2. Cranid Measurements 31
Table 3. Accuracy levels for pelvic traits 44
Table 4. Humerus: accuracy of sex determination ...48
Table 5. Accuracy of sex determination of distal humerus....51
Table 6. Femur metrics: accuracy in sex determination57
Table 7. Tibial metrics: accuracy in sex determination.............................................65
Table 8. Skeletal material recovered..79
Table 9. Relative occurrence of sex determinants from pelvic elements .80
Table 10. Occurrence of assessable cranial traits at Samtavro...81
Table 11. Humeri from Samtavro...82
Table 12. Specimens from Samtavro with femoral criteria .......................................83
Table 13. Tibial criteria for sex determination at Samtavro...83
Table 14. Minor skeletal elements at Samtavro 84
Table 15. Sex allocation by pelvic criteria 86
Table 16. Sex determination of crania by morphological analysis.88
Table 17 Glenoid cavity length and sex allocation90
Table 18. Measurements of humerus and sex allocation92
Table 19. Femoral measurements to determine sex...94
Table 20. Section points for femur derived from other sources 95
Table 21. Comparison of sex determined from femoral and pelvic measurements96
Table 22. Accuracy of individual femoral measurements to determine sex...97
Table 23. Determination of sex from tibia..98
Table 24 Allocation based on dental measurements..100
Table 25. Age and sex of subadults...101
Table 26. Final sex allocation104
Table 27. Analysis of individual tombs.106
Table 28. Elbow Criteria from Samtavro specimens..112


Table 29. Depth of Olecranon fossa..119
Table 30. Thickness of base of Olecranon fossa...119
Table 31. Angulation of Medial Epicondyle.120
Table 32. Epicondylar breadth of humerus...120
Table 33. Olecranon process Coronoid process distance..120
Table 34. OlecranonCoronoid Angle..121
Table 35. Maximum diameter of head of radius...121
Table 36. Combined Results.121
Table 37. Measurements of angle of neck of femur.124
Table 38. Measurements of degrees of torsion of femoral neck..125
Table 39. Measurements of the bicondylar angle.125

List of Figures
Fig.1. Graphical Representation of Section Point 21
Fig. 2. Scoring System for Cranial Features 27
Fig. 3. Gonial Angle 28
Fig. 4. Representation condylar region base of skull indicating measurements 33
Fig. 5. Method of mastoid measurement 34
Fig. 6. Sex differences in the pubic bone 37
Fig. 7. Sex differences in the greater sciatic notch 39
Fig. 8. Subpubic angle. 39
Fig. 9. Landmarks for determining sex of innominate 40
Fig. 10. Measurement of sciatic notch and acetabulum 41
Fig. 11. Auricular area and preauricular sulcus 42
Fig. 12. Landmarks for measuring glenoid cavity length 46
Fig. 13. Measurements of the humerus 49
Fig.14. Carrying angle at elbow joint 52
Fig. 15. Trochlear morphology 52
Fig. 16. Olecranon morphology 53
Fig. 17. Olecranoncoronoid angle 54
Fig. 18. Femoral measurements used for sex allocation 56
Fig. 19. Purkaits triangle...58
Fig. 20. Landmarks for measuring size and angle of femoral neck ..60
Fig. 21. Male and Female femora...61
Fig. 22. Femora with different degrees of torsion..62
Fig. 23. Measurements of the tibia used for sex determination..64
Fig. 24. Scatter Plot for Coimbra Collection Data.72
Fig.25. Maps of Georgia75
Fig. 26. Measuring Olecranon fossa depth.115
Fig. 27 Angulation of medial epicondyle of humerus.116
Fig. 28 OlecranonCoronoid Angle117
Fig. 29. Chelsea Old Church sample .128
Fig. 30. Maximum femoral head diameter (Roman period)...129



The determination of the sex of human skeletons is integral to the study of an ancient
community. It enables the estimation its peoples physical characteristics, such as stature,
age and ethnicity as well as assisting in the interpretation of their social and cultural
history. The validity of the assessment of these features is dependent on the accuracy of
the sex allocation which requires a careful evaluation by the most appropriate methods of
the sexual dimorphism of the skeletal elements under consideration.

Sexual dimorphism in the context of physical anthropology refers to the skeletal
differences which can be recognized between adult males and females based on visual
and metric criteria. The dimensions of female skeletal parts as a percentage of male parts
range from 90 to 96 per cent.
Sex determination from human skeletal remains is feasible
by the recognition of these sexually dimorphic traits which mostly result from
morphological adaptations associated with childbirth in females, particularly related to
the pelvis and the greater skeletal robusticity in males which is pronounced in the
cranium. The morphology of the pelvis and cranium show considerable sexual
dimorphism and when assessed by visual and metric analysis provide the most accurate
estimate for sex allocation. Metric analysis of other skeletal elements however can
provide additional supporting evidence.

The normal individual variation within populations which results in some females being
more robust and some males being less robust produces an overlap of the sexes at the
centre of the normal distribution where it is difficult to allocate sex based only on metric
criteria. This physical variation also applies to individuals belonging to specific
populations in which the population as a whole may be generally larger or smaller

Krogman and Iscan 1986, p. 190.
compared to other groups due to genetic variation, nutrition and physical activity.
Determination of sex can be achieved with considerable accuracy in adults when the
skeletal material is relatively complete, in good condition and comes from a known
population. Krogman was able to allocate the sex in a documented population using the
entire skeleton in with 100 per cent accuracy of cases, from the pelvis alone 98 per cent
were correctly allocated, from the cranium some 92 per cent, from the pelvis and cranium
combined in 98 per cent and from the long bones 80 per cent of the individuals were
correctly allocated.
Unfortunately these circumstances do not often apply to material
retrieved from archaeological excavations where the remains are in poor condition,
disarticulated, commingled, fragmented and incomplete. In addition they are often from
an unidentified population. The attribution of sex under these circumstances is much
more difficult owing to the state of the skeletal remains and lack of parameters from
comparable material and therefore less accurate. On the other hand it has also been noted
that archaeological populations tend to be more sexually dimorphic and genetically
homogenous than the ethnically and genetically mixed populations used in modern
forensic studies.

Sexual dimorphism is evident in human foetuses particularly in the pelvis with the sciatic
notch being wider in female foetuses and deeper in males and the subpubic angle larger
in females.
This was substantiated by Boucher who found that there was a greater
difference between the sexes of the foetal subpubic angle than in adults.
This is because
in male infants the secretion of androgens beginning in prenatal life produces sexual
dimorphism with a larger muscle mass, a higher birth weight and skeletal changes which
are apparent in pelvic morphology.
These changes in the pelvis are further accentuated
by the acceleration in growth which occurs at puberty.
This transformation is a complex
and dynamic process affected by sex differences related to variations in the rates and
directions of growth in specific areas of the pelvis as well as individual variation.

Krogman and Iscan 1986, p. 189.
Meindl et al. 1985, p.85.
Boucher 1957, p. 598.
Boucher 1957, pp. 594595.
Saunders 2008, pp. 122123.
Coleman 1969, p. 149.
Expansion occurs at the growth centers in the iliac crests, ischial tuberosities, acetabulum
and margins of sacro-iliac joint but the enlargement is also due to selective resorption and
deposition of bone within the individual bones of the pelvis.
Examples of these are the
greater length of the pubic bone in females contributing to their wider pelvic inlet and the
directional differences in growth of the inferior sections of the ischio-pubic ramus and
ischial tuberosity with both growing in a more lateral direction in females resulting in a
wider subpubic angle.

The problem

In the archaeological context the material to be analysed is often fragmentary, fragile,
incomplete, commingled and commonly from an undocumented population which makes
the process of estimating sex with acceptable accuracy difficult. In addition the skeletal
material obtained may be retrieved as isolated specimens or in such small numbers that
they do not comprise a statistically significant sample on which to establish parameters
for sex determination.

The research aim

The aim of this study is to review the techniques for sex allocation in commingled and
fragmentary human remains and employ them to estimate the sex of specimens recovered
from an ancient burial site at Samtavro, in the Republic of Georgia.

Thesis organisation

Chapter Two reviews the published literature on sex estimation from skeletal remains.
The background to sexual dimorphism is discussed and the materials and methods
utilised in sex determination for cranial and post-cranial remains examined. The results

Coleman 1969, p. 143.
Coleman 1969, p. 148.
from previous research on sex determination from skeletal elements are then tabulated to
assess and compare the accuracy achieved by the various methods.
In the final section of the chapter new techniques are proposed for estimating sex from
the dimorphic features of the elbow and the femur. These skeletal elements are often
recovered from ancient burials due to their compact bone density, but had not been
quantified in previous studies. New techniques are proposed and tested on skeletal
individuals of documented sex from the Museum of London.

Chapter Three focuses on the material from the burial ground at Samtavro. The
historical context of the burial ground is documented, with particular reference to the
cultural and demographic circumstances of the period in which these burials took place.
The individual skeletal elements recovered in the field seasons carried out in 2008 and
2009 and were analysed for sex estimation are recorded in this chapter.

The results of these investigations are discussed in Chapter Four. To assess the accuracy
of the techniques the results obtained in this study are compared to those from previous
investigations. In addition where possible the estimations of sex from the pelvic and
cranial analyses are compared to those from other post-cranial elements. Finally a
tentative sex is allocated to each individual by summing the assessments made for the
major skeletal elements.

The major findings of this study are discussed in the conclusion with possible
contributions arising from this research. Areas in which future investigations may be
helpful in sex determination particularly with reference to ancient skeletal material are
also proposed.



This chapter examines the main techniques involved in the evaluation of ancient human
remains for sex allocation. At the outset some general principles in the methodology
need to be reviewed before the specific approaches relevant to individual skeletal
elements are analysed. These principles involve several issues:
a) The assessment of sexual dimorphism which necessarily involves morphological
evaluation utilising qualitative and quantitative assessment and the notation of observer
errors inherent in these methods.
b) The effect of population variability.
c) The methods of statistical evaluation of the findings and the accuracy of the resultant
d) The state of the skeletal material.

Morphological Assessment

In all human populations there is generally a discernible difference in the size and shape
of male and female skeletal elements with males being on average about five per cent
larger. There is an overlap however, with some males being small and gracile and some
females being large and robust. The evaluation for sex allocation involves both
quantitative assessment with the measurement of skeletal elements and qualitative
assessment with a visual appraisal of sexually dimorphic features.

Qualitative assessment is based on the degree of robusticity which is visually apparent in
specific skeletal components. This visual assessment is standardized by relating it to a
five point scale with females at one end of the scale and males at the other with an
indeterminate result in the centre. An example is that applied to sex determination based
on the skull (Fig. 1).

Metric standards for skeletal elements have been developed for various population groups
which form the basis of quantitative assessment. Metric methods have the advantages of
being objective and can be analysed statistically whereas visual assessments are
subjective and relies on the experience of the observer. Data bases containing analyses
of reference populations have been established and widely utilised for this purpose but
due to population variability their applicability is limited when dealing with an
undocumented population.

Population variability

The qualitative features of skeletal individuals, in particular those related to robusticity
and childbirth are universal and not so dependent on population specificity in their
assessment. By contrast the quantitative variation in skeletal morphology is population
specific and cannot be generalized to other populations. This was demonstrated when
cranial functions calculated from a 19
century skeletal collection
provided inaccurate
sex determinations when applied to a modern population derived from the Forensic Data
Base in Tennessee.
It was revealed there had been significant changes in cranial
measurements over the intervening time period which the authors presumed were due to
different growth patterns associated with alterations in nutrition, physical activity and
migration. The chronological variability which can exist in populations was
demonstrated by Dittich and Suchey when investigating the remains of three Native
American populations. Those from the early sites were shown to be much more robust
than those from more recent sites confirming the necessity of establishing specific criteria
for different populations.

In addition it has been found that whereas there is a good correlation for sex estimation
between crania and pelves for females this is not the case for males who have greater
variability in their cranial morphology which tends to underestimate the numbers of

Giles and Elliot 1963, pp. 5368.
Ousley and Jantz 1997, pp. 445 452.
Dittrick and Suchey 1986, pp. 3.
males in a population.
Skull morphology is also affected by advancing age, Female
skulls, for instance become larger and have a tendency to develop male features giving a
bias towards male values.
This indicates that sex assessments must also take into
account the age of the individuals on which the study is being performed.

Sexual dimorphism based on the morphological variation and size of virtually all
postcranial elements has been examined in numerous studies.
There are many
published examples of these, such as the comparative analyses of the humerus in
Chinese, Japanese and Thai populations by Iscan et al.,
from contemporary Crete by
Kranioti and Michalodimitrakis
and from a Guatemalan rural population by Frutos.

Other long bones were studied in contemporary Japanese by Sakaue,
in South African
whites by Steyn and Iscan,
in European and African Americans from the Terry
collection by Iscan and Miller-Shaivitz
and in Munich and Cologne by Mall et al..
addition, the talus has been studied among prehistoric Polynesians by Murphy.
significant degree of skeletal variation between populations necessitates that the
population on which the sex determination is based needs to be quite specific, not only
with regard to ancestry but also the time period in which it is placed. Environmental
factors and cultural practices affecting levels of nutrition can influence sexual
Physical activity can also change the size and morphology of postcranial
elements and result in an alteration in sexual dimorphism.
For example, sex differences
in femoral shafts, with a greater cross-sectional diameter in males, were related to sex-
specific cultural activity (long distance running) in the Pecos Pueblo sample investigated

Meindl et al. 1985, p. 81.
Meindl et al. 1985, p. 81.
Meindl et al. 1985, p. 85
Iscan et al. 1998, pp. 1729.
Kranioti and Michalodimitrakis 2009, pp. 9961000.
Frutos 2005, pp. 153157.
Sakaue 2004, pp. 7581.
Steyn and Iscan 1997, pp. 111119.
Iscan and Miller-Shaivitz 1984, pp. 5357.
Mall et al. 2001, pp. 2330
Murphy 2002, pp. 155158.
Gray and Wolfe 1980, pp. 442456.
Ruff and Hayes 1983, p. 394.
by Ruff and Hayes.
Societies with poor protein consumption have been shown to have a
lower mean male height resulting in reduced sexual dimorphism, whereas societies with a
secure food supply had a greater degree of sexual dimorphism.
Polygamous societies
with greater competition between males had an increased mean male height.
Those in
cold climates had lower mean male statures and reduced sexual dimorphism.
the research material is from a known population, from which the parameters determining
sex have previously been established, a comparison with the material being analysed can
accurately establish the sex but these criteria are not transferable to another population.

Reference Collections

Many of the techniques used for estimating sex were developed from museum skeletal
collections of known sex. The most notable are the Terry collection at the Smithsonian
Institution in Washington D.C. and the Hamann-Todd Collection in Cleveland, Ohio, in
the USA. The Terry Collection predominantly came from university dissection
specimens and comprised older individuals collected during the 20
century. It is
predominantly male and consists of lower class individuals, mainly from St. Louis,
The Hamann-Todd collection housed in the Cleveland Museum of Natural
History came from local hospitals and medical schools and was collected between 1912
and 1938. The collection comprises 3,100 individuals who had birth dates from 1850 to
Most were from the lowest social class, but some were from the middle classes.

These collections have been extensively used to provide parameters for sex determination
but as both represent individuals from the early 20
century they may not be applicable to
other populations from different time periods and different geographic areas.
Data bases
of modern samples of skeletal remains have also been established, such as The Forensic

Ruff and Hayes 1983, pp. 398399.
Gray and Wolfe 1980, p. 455.
Gray and Wolfe 1980, p. 455.
Gray and Wolfe 1980, p. 452.
Holland 1986, p. 205.
Ousley and Jantz 1998, p. 441.
Ubelaker 2000, p. 46.
Data Base in Tennessee. This has over 1,300 cases from 48 of the US states with a large
proportion having documented sex and ancestry.

Observer Error

Intra-observer errors (observations repeated over time by a single observer) and inter-
observer errors (observations repeated by multiple observers) can be significant and
impact on the credibility of the final results. For example, when evaluating the distal
humerus by visual assessment Rogers found the inter-observer error for sex
determination to be an unacceptable 25%.
This was attributed to lack of observer
experience and a failure to define precisely the scoring criteria.
These problems can be
reduced by having adequately trained observers and where possible using standardised
scores and visual templates. The precision of metric analysis is not as dependent on
observer experience but is greatly improved by having well-defined measurements and
accurately calibrated instruments.

Preservation and Recovery

The ability to recover human remains and determine the sex depends to a great extent
depends on their state of preservation. Bone degradation in archaeological sites is
determined by the amount of ground water and the pH of the soil with wet, acid
conditions promoting bone destruction. Physical factors such as the depth and type of
burial and other aspects such as secondary burials, looting and other human and animal
activities also affect the condition and durability of the skeletal remains.

The physical nature of particular bones will also determine which skeletal elements will
survive. Willey et al. studied limb bones to assess their survival based on their mineral
They compared the bone mineral density of ancient skeletal material from the

Ousley and Jantz 2008, pp. 441458.
Rogers 2006, p. 229.
Rogers 2006, p. 231.
Willey et al. 1997, pp. 513528.
century massacre victims from Crow Creek, South Dakota, with contemporary
remains from the Anthropology Department of the University of Tennessee. They found
that the level of bone mineral density of skeletal elements from the modern sample was
consistent with those from the prehistoric site. They concluded that those bone elements
with a higher mineral content were more likely to be recovered. The mid-shaft regions of
the long bones were the most durable with a 90 per cent recovery rate, with the proximal
segments recovered in 80 per cent of cases, but the distal segments were less durable with
only the distal humerus reaching a recovery rate of 70 per cent.

The greater bone density of some smaller bones increases the likelihood of their recovery
compared with many of the larger less dense skeletal elements. This particularly applies
to the calcaneus and talus. When investigating a pre-historic American population
Wilbur found that these were present in about 70 per cent of skeletal individuals in a
suitable state to be measured and potentially used for sex determination.

The relative survival of elements of the human skeleton was also assessed by Waldron at
the Romano-British site in London.
He calculated the percentage of bones present from
those that would have been expected if the skeletons had been complete. The post
cranial components which had at least one side recovered in at least 50 per cent of the
individual skeletons included the glenoid cavity of the scapula, the proximal and distal
segments of the humerus and radius and the proximal ulna, the proximal and distal femur,
the distal tibia and the complete talus.

The survival of individual bones was quantified by Buikstra and Ubelaker who produced
an inventory for commingled bones according to their completeness with cranial bones
and small elements recorded separately, vertebrae by segments and long bones with
epiphyses and each third of diaphysis recorded. The degree of completeness is then

Wlley et al. 1997, pp. 522527.
Wilbur 1998, p. 188.
Waldron 1987, p. 58-59.
Waldron 1987, Table 6.1.
classified as 1=>75%, 2=75-25% and 3=<25%,
which indicates the skeletal elements
available for sex estimation.

Statistical Analysis of Ancient Remains

The type of statistical analysis which can be applied to ancient skeletal remains to
allocate sex depends on whether the remains are from a documented or undocumented
population, whether cranial or pelvic material is available for assessment and whether the
sample consists mainly of postcranial material.

Statistical analysis of an undocumented population

The statistical analysis to determine the sex of individuals within a population for which
the sex has been documented from post-mortem reports, coffin plates or some other
reliable source, or is morphologically very close to a documented population, can be
based on the parameters previously calculated for skeletal elements of that population. In
the case of an undocumented population, where there are no comparable individuals of
known sex, the problem is more complex as it must rely on other methods which can be
applied to the various skeletal measurements which have been obtained in order to
estimate the sex. This involves calculating the section point for each skeletal element,
that is the numerical point which is the cut-off separating the majority of males and
females. The method available to determine this figure depends on whether the pelvis is
available to provide a reliable estimate of the sex from which other parameters can be
derived, or whether the sex must be estimated only from other post-cranial elements. In
either case the sex allocation can only be approximate as there will be an overlap between
males and females in the middle of the standard curve for skeletal dimensions (Fig. 1).

Buikstra and Ubelaker 1994, p. 209.

Section point
Fig. 1. Graphical representation of section point

Section point determined from mid-point between male and female means when sex
pre-determined from pelvis

Because sex can be assigned with considerable accuracy from the bones of the pelvis (see
Table 5) in situations where a significant number of individuals have pelvic bones
present the sex of these can be accurately determined. The long bones associated with the
pelves can be used as parameters for the determining the sex of the remaining skeletons.
Ideally to provide a statistically significant result there should be at least thirty males and
thirty females present in the sample being analysed.
This method for determining the
sex for poorly preserved, fragmentary, ancient remains was employed by Black who
studied the femoral circumference.
Only a small proportion of the sample was able to
be sexed by pelvic criteria but their utilization enabled population specific sexed
standards for the circumference of the femora to be determined. Calculating the means
for the male and female femora in which the sex had been provided from the pelvic
criteria provided this. The section point as being the midpoint between the male and
female means was then established (Fig. 27). Using this section point the rest of the
femora were then to allocate the sex of the individuals where the pelves were not present.

Albanese et al. 2005, p. 145.
Martinand Pierce 1994, p. 135.
Black 1978, pp. 227-232.
This achieved sex allocations consistent with that previously obtained from the pelvic
morphology, of 85 per cent.
This method was also used for three prehistoric Native
American populations analysed by Dittrick and Suchey.
They initially estimated the sex
using pelvic criteria which they had previously determined were 99 per cent accurate in
an adult population. This enabled the establishment of standards to analyse the long
bones of the three Native American populations.

Section point of post-cranial remains determined from the mean of the whole

Albanese and his colleagues have developed an alternative method for sex determination
in the absence of firm sex determining criteria. They formulated a method that can be
used to calculate the section points of postcranial remains in the absence of pelvic
In his method the mean of the whole sample for each criterion was determined
and this was then used as the section point. The method is valid if both sexes are present
in roughly equal proportions with a bimodal distribution of the measurements. The mean
of the whole sample provides the section point for determining the sex to an unknown
The method was tested on samples taken from three skeletal collections.
Two of these were from Portugal, the Skeletal Collection from the University of Coimbra
and the Museum of Natural History in Lisbon and the third sample was from the
St.Thomas Anglican Church, Belleville, Canada. All were adults of documented sex
with no pathological conditions. Several measurements of the humerus and femur were
taken for the study. Sub-samples of different sizes were assessed and it was found that
those which contained more than forty individuals gave consistently more accurate
results for sex determination than those of lesser numbers. The number of each sex in the
sample also needed to be fairly even with a sex ratio of one sex being not more than one

Black 1978, p. 230.
Dittrick and Suchey 1986, pp. 3-9.
Albanese et al. 2005, pp. 143-152
Albanese et al. 2005, p. 145.
and a half times the other to obtain consistently accurate results excluding situations such
as a battlefield where one sex would predominate.

The spread of data for each sex had to show a relatively normal distribution. Preferably
too, the means of the measurements for each sex had to be significantly different so that
the region of overlap was minimal. The accuracy for correct sex allocation under these
circumstances when compared to the documented sex was found to be 8396 per cent

Overall Section Point derived by combining means

Another approach used by Albanese et al. for calculating the section point to separate
males and females involved calculating the means of multiple measurements on the same
skeletal element. Then, from the sum of these, they produced an overall mean used as the
overall section point. This gave allocation accuracies of 90-100 per cent even in the
circumstances where the sex ratio was more than 1.5:1.

Multivariate or univariate analysis

Multivariate analysis to determine the sex of skeletal remains is applicable when the
material is in good condition and complete but when dealing with ancient remains where
the elements available for assessment are incomplete and in poor condition this is often
not possible. Dittrick and Suchey applied discriminant function analyses using nine
measurements from both the humerus and femur for sex determination. This necessitated
the presence of a suitable number of intact skeletal elements.
Unfortunately all of the
skeletal elements required to enable the measurements to be taken to perform a
multivariate discriminant function analysis cannot always be obtained for many of the
specimens being investigated, particularly from an archaeological site. To deal with this

Albanese et al. 2005, p. 148.
Albanese et al. 2005, p. 147.
Albanese et al. 2005, p. 147.
Dittrick and Suchey 1986, p. 5.
situation, in addition to their analysis using multiple variables, Dittrich and Suchey
compared an analysis using single variables. They found that this did not give
significantly inferior results. This demonstrated that the use of several different
measurements, analysed singly is reliable and is the usually the most appropriate method
when many of the skeletal elements are deficient.

The above methods allow for greater flexibility in the determination of sex of human
remains. They provided considerable accuracy even when the available skeletal material
is fragmented, incomplete, does not belong to a large sample and is from an
undocumented population.

Albanese et al. 2005, p. 149.

Review of studies involving the determination of sex from human skeletal

Most of the elements of the human skeleton have been assessed by visual and metric
means for their effectiveness in the determination of the sex but not all have been found
to be useful. In this chapter the results obtained by numerous investigators have been
examined to evaluate which morphological traits are likely to give the best outcome for
human remains from archaeological sites, the focus of this study.. Many previous studies
have been performed on modern forensic skeletal remains which are not necessarily
applicable to ancient material. For this project particular attention is given to skeletal
elements that have been recovered from historic burials.

Sex determination using cranial elements.

The examination of cranial traits has shown significant sexual dimorphism owing to the
increased robusticity occurring in males, with a larger skull and more obvious muscle
markings. By contradistinction, many females retain many of the pre-pubertal features
such as small size and lightness with some of the juvenile frontal and temporal bossing
also present. These features have enabled sex to be allocated correctly by visual
assessment in up to 96 per cent of documented skeletal individuals.
The relative
difference in cranial dimensions between the sexes has also enabled metric analysis to be
useful with correct allocation in up to 89 per cent of cases.

Owing to the subjectivity associated with the visual assessment of the cranium and the
need to obtain more consistent outcomes with less observer errors, a scoring system for
some cranial features has been established. This provides a more objective approach and

Williams and Rogers 2006, p.729.
Giles and Elliot 1963, pp. 5368.
also enables comparative studies to be performed (Fig. 2).
Five criteria have been used
which demonstrate the differences in size, shape and robusticity between the sexes.

The criteria are classified from one to five, from (definitely) female to (definitely) male
as follows:
1 = female, 2 = probably female, 3 = neutral (indeterminate), 4 = probably male,
5 = male.

The nuchal crest (occipital protruberance) projects from the occipital bone and its size
is representational of the musculature of the skull. In a gracile female it is smooth and
scores 1, in a robust male it forms a massive hook and scores 5.

The mastoid process varies significantly in its size and is scored according to its volume
rather than its length. Its size can be related to the external auditory meatus. If it is small
it reaches only a small distance below the external auditor meatus (scoring 1), whereas if
it is large it is several times longer and wider than the external auditory meatus (scoring

The supraorbital margin, the upper border of the orbit, may be a sharp ridge in females
(scoring 1) or thick and round in males (scoring 5).

The supraorbital ridge is a rounded elevation over the inner aspect of each orbit with a
prominent eminence in the midline, the glabella. At the least they are smooth with little
prominence of the frontal area (scoring 1), but in males there may be a massive ridge in
the midline and prominent supraorbital ridges laterally (scoring 5).

The mental eminence is rounded and comes to a point in females with little projection
(scoring 1). In males it is square with a large projection (scoring 5).

Buikstra 1994, Fig. 4, derived from Ascadi and Nemeskeri 1970, Fig. 16.
Buikstra 1994, p.19.

Fig. 2. Scoring system for cranial features

The gonial angle (Fig.3) of the mandible formed by the junction of the horizontal ramus
(the body) and the ascending (vertical) ramus is a useful dimorphic feature particularly as
it provides an objective measurement. The angle is generally larger in females than
It has been quantified to be greater than 125 degrees in females and less than
125 degrees in males.
The gonial angle is affected by changes to the muscles of

Buikstra 1994, Fig. 4, derived from Ascadi and Nemeskeri 1970, Fig. 16.

Jensen and Palling 1954, p 125.
Williams and Rogers 2006, p. 731.
mastication which follows the loss of molars particularly if the loss is uneven or
complete, so does not accurately indicate the sex in that situation.

Fig.3. Gonial angle

Accuracy of cranial traits in sex determination

The accuracy of various cranial traits to estimate sex has been assessed by Williams and
Rogers who examined 21 craniofacial features.
Rogers had identified that although
these features had been widely used their credibility had not previously been
The study sample was randomly chosen from the skeletal collection of the
University of Tennessee from Caucasians of European descent born during the 20

century. Fifty specimens were selected with equal numbers of males and females. The
females had a mean age of 62.6 years and the males 51.9 years. They ranked the cranial
traits by comparing the sex obtained by blind assessment with the known sex and by
evaluating the traits on two separate occasions by the same observer and comparing the
results. At least 80 per cent accuracy for sex determination was chosen as the standard to
be attained as this was regarded as the minimum accuracy which could be obtained by
cranial measurement
and an intraobserver error of not greater than 10 per cent was
selected as this value was consistent with previous studies.

Oettle et al. 2009, pp. 505511.
Bass 1987, Fig.232.
Williams and Rogers 2006, p. 731.
Rogers 2005, pp. 493500.
Giles and Elliot 1963. P.53.
Molto 1979, pp.333344.

Only six traits achieved the desired level of accuracy of at least 80 per cent for sex
allocation and an intra-observer error of 10 per cent or less (Table 1).

Table 1. Ranked cranial traits according to their accuracy.

Mastoid 92%
Supraorbital ridge 88%
Size and architecture of cranium 90%
Zygomatic extension 83%
Nasal aperture 83%
Mandible-gonial angle 83%

Williams and Rogers found the accuracy when based on a combination of these six traits
was 94 per cent. They cautioned that as these criteria reflect robusticity, which is
population specific, further investigations with specimens of different ancestry would be
necessary to demonstrate the reliability of these criteria in assessing other populations.

Metric Analysis of Crania

To avoid the subjectivity associated with visual assessment of cranial traits Giles and
Elliot used ten cranial measurements in discriminant function analyses to assign the sex
of individuals.
Three hundred specimens, comprising 75 male and female European
Americans and AfricanAmericans of known sex and age were selected from the Terry
collection in Washington and the Todd collection in Cleveland. The individuals were
between 21 and 75 years of age and lived during the 19
century and early 20

Williams and Rogers 2006, Table 5.
Williams and Rogers 2006, p. 734.
Giles and Elliot 1963, pp. 5368.

The following measurements were used:

Glabello-occipital length
Maximum width
Basion-bregma height
Maximum diameter, bizygomatic
Prosthion nasion height
Nasal breadth
Palate-external breadth
Opisthion-forehead length
Mastoid length

The discriminant function analysis achieved accuracy for sex determination of 8289 per
cent. Giles and Elliott claimed was that while method gave an equivalent accuracy to
visual examination, it had the added advantage that it did not require any specialised
knowledge or experience of the cranial traits to achieve this result.

A craniometric approach for sex determination has been used more recently by Wright
who developed the CRANID software program.
The primary use of CRANID is to
identify the geographical origin of unknown crania. Twentynine cranial measurements
(Table 3) are used to match an unknown cranium with a database of over 3000 crania of
known sex from 74 worldwide geographic regions. Although a complete set of
measurements is required for a full analysis, an estimate of sex can be performed with
incomplete crania. A close match with a sexspecific region provides an indirect
assessment of sex. The cranial measurements used in the CRANID program are shown in
Table 2.

Giles and Elliot 1963, pp. 5859.
Wright 2009, pp. 166.

Table 2. CRANID measurements

1. Max Cranial Length GOL
2. Nasio-occipital length NOL
3. Cranial Base length BNL
4. Basion-bregma height BBH
5. Max. Cranial Breadth XCB
6. Max. Frontal Breadth XFB
7. Biauricular breadth AUB
8. Biasterionic breadth ASB
9. Basion-prosthion length BPL
10. Upper Facial Height NPH
11. Nasal height. NLH
12.Orbital height OBH
13.Orbital breadth OBB
14. Bijugal breadth JUB
15. Nasal breadth NLB
16. Palate breadth MAB
17. Bimaxillary breadth ZMB
18. Zygomaxillary subtense SSS
19 Bifrontal breadth FMB
20. Nasion frontal subtense NAS
21. Biorbital breadth EKB
22. Interorbital breadth DKB
23. Cheek height WMH
24. Frontal chord FRC
25. Nasion-bregma subtense FRS
26. Parietal chord PAC
27. Bregma-lambda subtense PAS
28. Occipital chord OCC
29. Lambda-opisthion subtense OCS


Holland used metric analysis of the cranial base to develop a technique which could be
applied to estimate the sex of fragmented crania (Fig. 4).
The sample was taken from
the Terry collection and consisted of 50 males and 50 females with equal numbers of
European Americans and African Americans between the ages of 20 and 50 years.

Nine measurements were taken from the skull as shown in Fig. 4.

Length of occipital condyle (MLC)
Width of occipital condyle (MWC)
Minimum distance between condyles (MnD)
Bicondylar breadth (BcB)
Maximum interior distance between condyles (MxID)
Length of foramen magnum (LFM)
Width of foramen magnum (WFM)
Length of basilar process (midpoint of anterior margin of foramen magnum to basilar
Distance between postcondyloid foramen (DF)

Holland 1986, pp. 203208.
Holland 1986, p. 203.
Holland 1986, p. 204.

Fig. 4. Representation of the condylar region of the base of skull indicating the
location of measurements.

This technique correctly allocated sex in 7190 per cent of cases, and, although it was
less accurate than the method of Giles and Elliot, it may be of use in specimens where the
cranium is fragmentary or deformed and only the base of the skull is intact.

Holland 1986, Fig. 1.
Holland 1986, p. 205.

Mastoid Process

Metric analysis of the mastoid process has been shown to be possibly superior to visual
assessment in determination of sex.
Measurement of the mastoid height (Fig. 5), which
is the length of the mastoid process below and perpendicular to the eyeear plane, was
shown to be more accurate for sex allocation than visual methods. The exception is the
visual assessment of the supramastoid crest (the zygomatic extension), which proved to
be more accurate in females.
The supramastoid crest is a raised area of bone that forms
the posterior root of the zygomatic process and was scored by Bernard on a scale from -2
(very faint - hyperfemale) to +2 (very prominent - hypermale).
The analysis of the
mastoid is important because of its durability in situations where the available skeletal
material is fragmented and incomplete.

Fig. 5. Method of mastoid measurement

The cranium can provide useful information for sex allocation, but it does have
limitations when applied to ancient remains from an undocumented population because

Bernard 2006, pp. 165.
Bernard 2006, p. 41.
Bernard 2006, p. 20.
Giles and Elliot 1967, p. 58.
both the visual as well as the metric criteria being related to robusticity are population
specific. The visual assessment of morphological traits is also subjective. Reliant largely
on experience this issue has been overcome to some extent by the use of templates of
morphological variations for the commonly assessed traits (Fig.1). The mastoid and the
supraorbital margins have been ranked highly for accuracy by Rogers and both can be
assessed using the template. They have the additional advantage that being composed of
compact bone are frequently recovered from ancient burials. The mastoid process was
recovered from 60 per cent of specimens from the RomanBritish site investigated by
Waldron whereas intact crania were only present in 17 per cent.
The fragmented state of
most crania limits the value of metric assessment although measurements of the mastoid
process and base of the skull may be able to be used.

Sex Determination with Postcranial Skeletal Material

Pelvic sex determinants.

The pelvic girdle provides many features which can accurately determine sex but its
fragility means that it is not commonly recovered intact at ancient burial sites.
The pubic bone in particular is vulnerable especially when it lies uppermost in a burial in
the supine position. Breakages often occur in the superior and inferior pubic rami so
many of the features of the anterior pelvis are often not available for assessment. The
relative frequency of the survival of individual pelvic bones in material obtained from a
RomanoBritish site in London has been documented by Waldron.
The burial site was
dated from the second to the fourth centuries AD and contained 112 burials with 88
adults. It was found that the acetabulum, the greater sciatic notch and the auricular
surface were present in over 60% of adults in contrast to the pubic symphysis which was
present in only 30%.

Waldron 1987, p.59.
Waldron 1987, p. 60.
Waldron 1987, p. 60.

There are several morphological differences between male and female pelves related to
childbirth which provide useful criteria for sex determination. Phenice studied these
differences and described a method of sexing the pelvis. He used the ventral arc (a ridge
on the anterior surface of the pubic bone mostly only found in females), the subpubic
concavity (a lateral curve of the ischiopubic ramus which widens the pelvic outlet) and
the medial edge of the ischio-pubic ramus at the outlet which is a sharp ridge below the
pubic symphysis in females and a broad, rounded surface in males (Fig. 6).
claimed that his method was not subjective, was rapid and could be used accurately
without requiring a great deal of observer experience. The three criteria were tested by
Phenice on 275 adult individuals of known sex from the Terry Skeletal Collection. There
were 72 AfricanAmericans (20 males, 52 females) and 203 EuropeanAmericans (160
males and 43 females). It was found that 264 (96 per cent) had been correctly allocated.
When the ethnic background and sex of the individuals was taken into account the
accuracy for sex allocation was still at least 95 per cent.
Where at least one or two of
the criteria definitely indicated male or female the sex determination was correct in at
least 96 per cent of individuals.
Lovell found that when used with a series of older
individuals the accuracy in determining sex was reduced to 83 per cent.

Phenice 1967, pp. 297-301.
Phenice 1967, p. 298.
Phenice 1967, p. 300.
Lovell 1989, p. 119.
Fig. 6. Sex differences in the pubic bone.

Female Male

Ventral arc (12)

Subpubic concavity (3)

Ischio-pubic ramus (45)

Phenice 1967, Fig. 1.
The greater sciatic notch in females is wide, usually forming an angle of about 60
degrees. In males the notch is narrower with an angle of about 30 degrees.

Walker developed a scoring system based on the morphology of the greater sciatic notch
and provided drawings based on the range of variation between extreme males and
extreme females (Fig. 7).
This aimed to reduce the subjectivity associated with purely
visual assessment. A series of pelves from the Hamann-Todd Collection, the Terry
Collection and the St. Brides Church Collection in London were then evaluated. The
first two collections represented relatively recent populations, whereas the St. Brides
sample belonged to a population from 17611851.
All were adults with documented sex
and age at death. It would be expected that in a five point scale a score of three would
indicate an indeterminate result. The results, however, showed that if the scoring system
indicated individuals had a score of one, 90% were female and when the score was three
90 per cent were males. A score of two was indeterminate although it was closer to the
female morphology. There were no significant differences between the African
Americans and EuropeanAmericans but the earlier English population from St.Brides
Church demonstrated females with scores of one in greater frequency and the males also
had lower scores of one or two more often than the Americans.
Age differences were
also noted with, both males and females of less than 50 years having a more feminine
sciatic notch morphology but older males in particular tended to show more
masculinisation with narrower greater sciatic notches.
Overall this method of assessing
the greater sciatic notch accurately determined sex in 80 per cent of individuals.

Uberlaker 1978, p. 42.
Walker 2005, Fig. 1.
Walker 2005, p. 386.
Walker 2005, p. 388.
Walker 2005, p. 388.
Walker 2005, p. 385. See also Bruzek 2002, pp. 157168.
Fig. 7. Sex Differences in the Greater Sciatic Notch. Drawing by P.Walker.

Greater sciatic notch
Female Male

The subpubic angle (Fig. 8) is less than a right angle in males and greater than a right
angle in females.
This has been ranked on a five point scale with a strongly obtuse
rounded angle being definitely female, a right angle being indeterminate and a strongly
acute A-form being definitely male.

Fig. 8. Subpubic angle

Male Female

Walker 2005, p. 386.
Workshop of European anthropologists 1980, p. 518.
Workshop of European Anthropologists 1980, p.518.
Bass 1987, Fig. 381.
The pubis is longer in females and this feature has been utilized by Washburn,
combining it with the length of the ischium, to calculate the ischiopubic index.
studied 300 adult skeletons from the Hamann Museum of Anatomy of the Western
Reserve University which included 100 European-American males and females and 50
AfricanAmerican males and females. The index measures the relative lengths of the
pubis (AC) and ischium (AB) from the point where they meet at the acetabulum where
there is an irregularity or a notch (Fig. 9).
The index is calculated by Length of Pubis
x 100/ Length of Ischium. It is an objective observation which Washburn found to be 15
per cent larger in females and could accurately determine the sex in over 90 per cent of

Fig. 9. Landmarks for determining sex of innominate

The pelvic inlet is broader and elliptical in shape in females and narrower and heart-
shaped in males. There is a considerable variation however, with a significant number of
male and female pelves not conforming to their typical shape.
Young and Ince

Washburn 1948, p. 200.
Bass 1987, p. 201.
Washburn 1948, p. 201.
Bass 1987, Fig.3-76.
Coleman 1969, p. 145-146.
performed radiological studies on the pelves of 500 females and 50 males and found 14
per cent of female pelves had male characteristics but also some male pelves had the
female shape.

The true pelvis, defined as that area of the pelvis below the arcuate line, is deeper and
narrower in males and shallower and wider in females.

The acetabulum is relatively larger in males than females in order to articulate with the
larger femoral head. This aspect has been adapted by Kelley to formulate the sciatic
notch / acetabulum index which can be used for sex determination regardless of the pelvis
being fragmented.
The index is calculated by Greater Sciatic Notch Width / Vertical
Diameter of Acetabulum x 100 (Fig. 10). The cutoff point was 87 for European
Americans and Afro-Americans and 86 for Native Americans with the accuracy for sex
determination of at least 90 per cent accuracy.
Fig.10. Measurement of greater sciatic notch and acetabulum

AB greater sciatic notch width CD vertical diameter of acetabulum

Young and Ince 1940, p. 374385.
Kelley 1979, pp. 154158.
Kelley 1979
The muscle markings are more prominent in males, in keeping with their greater muscle
mass. This is best assessed by comparison with skeletal material from the same
population in which the sex has been reliably determined. It is not regarded as a reliable
criterion but may be useful as a contributory feature (see Table 5).
The sacral shape shows considerable sexual dimorphism and can be a useful indicator of
sex. It is relatively longer and narrower in males and shorter and broader in females in
keeping with their wider, shallower pelves. It is also more curved in males and flatter in

The auricular surface of the ilium, which articulates with the sacrum, is often elevated
in females contributing to their wider pelvis. This is mainly evident at the postero-
superior margin of the articular surface.
This area is generally flat in males (Fig. 11).
The pre-auricular sulcus is an elongated depression between the sciatic notch and the
sacroiliac joint. It is most commonly present in females. It is rarely present in males and
if so, is much shallower than in females (Fig. 11).

Fig. 11. Auricular area and pre-auricular sulcus.

Bass 1987, p. 113.
Stewart 1979, p. 108.
Ubelaker 1978, p. 42.
Ubelaker 1978, p. 43.
The Obturator foramen shows significant dimorphism, being large and ovoid in males
and small and triangular in females.
Brothwell regarded this feature to be only of
minor value.
Bierry et al. however, using a quantitative radiological method to assess
the shape of the obturator fossa, confirmed the differences in shape and were able to
assign correctly sex using this trait in over 80 per cent of CT examinations from the
University Hospital in Strasbourg.

Accuracy of pelvic criteria in sex determination

Rogers and Saunders assessed 17 morphological pelvic traits from a sample of 49 adults
excavated from a 19
century cemetery in Belleville, Canada. The individuals which
selected for evaluation had intact pelves and their sex had been documented from coffin
plates. They ranked the traits according to the accuracy in sex determination and the
degree of intraobserver error (precision) (Table 3)

The accuracy was evaluated by
comparing the results for sex allocation with the known sex. Precision was determined by
the percentage of cases which had their sex allocation reversed in a second assessment of
a trial sample. This method does produce some contradictory results, notably that for
sacral segments which had an accuracy of only 6.1 per cent (ranked 17
for accuracy) but
with a high precision for re-assessment of 3.2 per cent (ranked 5
for precision) giving an
overall ranking above pelvic inlet, ischio-pubic ramus and auricular surface.

The first six traits had intra-observer errors below 5 per cent. Four traits, acetabulum size
and shape, auricular surface height, pre-auricular sulcus and ischiopubic ramus shape had
errors above 10 per cent which indicated that these features were difficult to evaluate.

Combinations of traits produced the most accurate results with obturator foramen shape
combined with ventral arc or with true pelvis shape producing accuracy for sex allocation
of 98 per cent.

Brothwell 1981, p. 62.
Brothwell 1981, p. 62.
Bierry et al. 2010, pp. 626631.
Rogers and Saunders 1994, Table 5.
Rogers and Saunders 1993, p. 1050.

Table 3. Accuracy levels for pelvic traits

Ventral arc
Obturator foramen
True pelvis
Sacrum shape
Subpubic concavity
Pubis shape
Muscle markings
Dorsal pitting
Preauricular sulcus
Sacrum (posterior)
Sciatic notch
Ilium shape
Sacral segments
Pelvic inlet
Ischiopubic ramus
Auricular surface


. Because the pelvis directly reflects the functional differences between the sexes it is the
most valuable skeletal element for sex allocation in undocumented specimens.

Unfortunately elements of the anterior pelvis are not often recovered in ancient
specimens so many of the criteria from this area are frequently not available
This includes the traits described by Phenice as well as five of the six most
accurate criteria noted by Rogers and Saunders (Table 3). Owing to this, criteria from
other regions of the pelvis must be taken into account when allocating sex, particularly
the greater sciatic notch, frequently recovered from historic burials and has been shown
to be a reliable trait.


Metric analysis of post-cranial elements

Numerous workers have studied most post-cranial elements to determine their efficacy in
sex allocation. The results of many of these have been tabulated to enable comparisons
to be made regarding the reliability of metric analysis of the various morphological
criteria in determining sex and in particular an assessment as to their suitability for
allocating the sex of ancient remains. Special attention is given to criteria associated with
joints because proximal as well as distal joint measurements are shown to be consistently
more accurate in determining sex as compared to long bone lengths, shaft diameters and
In addition, due to the compact nature of the bone in the region of
joints these sections are more frequently recovered from ancient burials.


Mays 1998, p.33.
Waldron 1987, p. 60.
Waldron 1987, p. 60.
Walker 2005, p. 385.
Albanese et al. 2005, p. 148.
Waldron 1987, p.59.
The glenoid cavity is a compact skeletal element often recovered from ancient burials.

It has been shown to be useful for sex allocation by Stewart who found that a glenoid
cavity length of 36mm separated the sexes in a high percentage of cases (the exact
figure was not given).
This finding was based on measurements taken from scapulae
of the Terry Collection. The landmarks used for the measurement are shown in Fig. 12.

Fig.12. Landmarks for measuring glenoid cavity length


The sexual dimorphism of the humerus has been assessed by various investigators. Many
morphological features have been examined and the reliability of each criterion for sex
allocation evaluated. These include:
(a) Frutos
who examined forensic specimens from rural Guatemala,
(b) Mall et al.
who looked at contemporary skeletal material from Cologne and
(c) Sakaue
examined modern Japanese,

Waldron 1987, p.59.
Stewart 1979, pp. 9798.
Bass 1995, p. 126.
Frutos 2004, p. 156.
Mall 2001, p. 27.
Sakaue 2004, p. 77.
(d) Steyn and Iscan
investigated skeletons from South Africa dating from 1863 to
(e) Iscan et al.
focused on 20
century samples from Thailand, China and Japan,
(f) Dittrick and Suchey
studied the remains from Central California belonging to three
cultural groups from 2500 BC, 1000500 BC and after 500 AD,
(g) Finally Kranioti
investigated contemporary specimens from Crete and France

European Americans, African Americans and Native Americans from the Tennessee Data
Bank. These results have been tabulated in Table 4. They indicate that measurements of
the humeral head, particularly the vertical diameter, minimum mid-shaft diameter and
also the distal humerus, notably the epicondylar breadth, when used as single variables
have accuracy for sex allocation of at least 80 per cent. These criteria have been used as a
basis for discriminant function analysis which has produced an even greater accuracy.
Kranioti found discriminant function analysis involving maximum length, head vertical
diameter, minimum midshaft diameter and epicondylar breadth gave an accuracy of 91.1
per cent.
Similarly measurements of humeri from the Tennessee Data Bank involving
bicondylar breadth, head diameter and midshaft minimum diameter were correct for sex
estimation in 96 per cent of cases.
The most useful diameters for sex discrimination
are shown in Fig. 13.

The samples studied by Mall, Sakaue, Kranioti, Stein and Iscan were all of documented
sex whereas those examined by Frutos had their sex estimated from the pelvis and
cranium and those of Dittrich and Suchey from the pubis. These studies have confirmed
that the most useful criteria for sex allocation of the humerus are those proximally,
associated with the shoulder joint involving the head of the humerus and distally,
associated with the elbow particularly the epicondylar breadth and distal articular
breadth. These have been shown to allocate correctly sex in up to 90% of individuals.

Steyn and Iscan 1999, p. 81.
Iscan et al. 1998, p. 24.
Dittrick and Suchey 1986, p. 7.
Kranioti 2009, p. 999.
France 1997, pp. 170-171.
Kranioti 2009, p. 999.
France 1997, p. 169.

Table 4. Humerus: Accuracy of Sex Determination (%)

* AA=Afro-Americans EA= Euro-Americans NA= Native Americans

Author Frutos Mall Sakaue Steyn Kranioti

Dittrick Dittrick and Suchey
Dittrick Iscan


white black Early Mid/Late AA EA NA*
maximum length 83 80.58 70 85.1 64.4 81
maximum head
diameter 95.5 88 91
vertical head diameter 90.41 84 91 89.9 85.7 90.3 81 87 90 89 89 91
tranverse head
diameter 85.7 89.1 91 92 89
maximum midshaft
diamet diameter 76.8 88 79.2 75.6 76.6
minimum midshaft
diamet diameter 85.7 86.3 73.3 77.7
midshaft 86.6 81.5 77 80 88
epicondylar breadth 91.1 88.49 89.7 88.6 85.1 78 90 93 86 85 86
distal articular breadth 95 93 92 87
trochlear width 70
sagittal diameter
trochlear. 89
med-lat diameter
distal epiphysis
vertical diameter prox.
epiph. 70
med-lat diameter
prox. Epiph 88
deltoid circumference 79.6 82.3
deltoid diameter 67.3 78.2
bicondylar width 83.3 85.3
least circumference 75.9 81.9

Fig. 13. Measurements of Humerus.

A-B Maximum length
C-D Maximum Diameter of Head
M-N Maximum diameter of midshaft
S-T Minimum diameter of midshaft
M-N Circumference of midshaft
Z Least circumference of shaft
I I Epicondylar Breadth



The head of the radius has considerable sexual dimorphism shown by the measurements
of the maximum and minimum diameters. Berrizbeitia demonstrated an accuracy of over
90 per cent using these parameters in specimens from the Terry collection.
specimens were more likely to be female if the minimum diameter of the radial head was
equal or less than 21mm and the maximum diameter 22mm. The individual is more likely
male if the minimum diameter was 22mm or more and the maximum diameter 23mm or
more. These results indicate that as the head of the radius is preserved in over 50% of
historic burials
it is a useful sex discriminant.

Dimorphic features associated with the elbow joint

The carrying angle is the angle at the elbow joint between the upper and lower arm when
the arm is fully extended and the hand supinated (Fig.14). This angle is about ten
degrees greater in females than males and because of this variation, morphological
differences are present in the distal humerus and proximal ulna. The elements of the
elbow have been subjected to both quantitative and qualitative assessment for sex
determination in previous research. Rogers has researched the distal humerus using visual
These studies involved modern adult skeletal material from the University of
New Mexico collection (UNM) and the William Bass collection at the University of
Tennessee (UTK),
century adults from the Christ Church, Spitalfields
collection in London and 1920
century adults from Portugal
as well as adolescent
skeletons also from the Spitalfields collection.
Four visual criteria related to posterior
aspect of the distal humerus including the morphology of the trochlear (Fig.15), the depth

Berrizbeitia 1989,
Waldron 1987, p. 59.
Rogers 1999, pp. 5760; 2006, pp. 227234; 2009, pp. 143148.
Rogers 1999, pp. 5760.
Rogers 2006, pp. 227234.
Rogers 2009, pp.143148.
and shape of the olecranon fossa (Fig.16) and the angulation of the medial epicondyle. A
summary of the results of the adult studies is shown in Table 5.

Table 5. Accuracy of sex determination of distal humerus, modern
and historic


Features 20th C 20th C 1819th C 1920th C
adults adults adults adults
(UNM) (UTK) (London) (Lisbon)
Olecranon fossa
(depth/shape) 91% 82% 63% 78%
Angle of medial
epicondyle 86% 86% 67% 66%
Trochlear constriction 74% 88% 55% 64%
Trochlear symmetry 74% 69% 67% 66%

The individual traits were considerably less accurate for sex allocation in the historic
samples compared to the modern collections. A combination of the criteria from the
modern samples produced accuracy for sex determination of over 90 per cent, with the
olecranon used as a guide in the 2% of indeterminate specimens.
The historic samples,
on the other hand, had a combined result of about 80 per cent which included up to 20 per
cent of indeterminate cases.

Rogers 1999, p. 59.
Rogers 2006, p. 232.
Rogers 1999, p. 59.
Rogers 2006, p. 232.
Fig. 14. Carrying angle at the elbow joint.

Fig. 15. Trochlear morphology

Purkait and Chandra 2004, Fig.1.
Rogers 2006, p. 233.

Fig.16. Olecranon morphology

Another feature which may be useful is perforation of the olecranon fossa. It is
considered to be more often present in females than males but Krogman and Iscan have
suggested that this is not a particularly reliable trait.
This feature has been studied in
specimens from the Museum of London. The details of this study are presented in the
appendix and the results confirmed that perforation of the olecranon fossa is twice as
common in females.

Purkait and Chandra also investigated dimorphic features associated with the carrying
angle. Their investigation was carried out using specimens of known sex from the
Bhopal Medico-legal Institute with male and female adult ulna from middle class
individuals with a mean age of 45 years.
They found the best results were related to the
proximal ulna, particularly the olecranon-coronoid angle which was accurate for
assigning sex in 85 per cent of individuals (Fig. 17).
It was assessed by measuring the
angle made by the line joining the tips of the olecranon and coronoid processes (A-B)
extended to join the line of the posterior surface (D). The angle was greater in males
(mean 22 degrees) than females (mean 14 degrees).

Rogers 2006, p. 233.
Krogman and Iscan 1986, p. 235.
Purkait and Chandra 2004, pp. 924927.
Purkait and Chandra 2004, p. 926.
Purkait and Chandra 2004, p. 926.
Fig. 17. Olecranon-coronoid angle

These studies have shown that skeletal elements related to the elbow joint can be useful
sex determinants. Rogers demonstrated its usefulness using visual traits from the distal
humerus with modern individuals but the method was not as conclusive with historic
specimens. Purkait and Chandra used intact ulnas to show that the olecranon-coronoid
angle had significant sexual dimorphism but as only the proximal ulna is often the only
section recovered from ancient remains this is of limited value. As a result of this finding
a study was carried out using only the proximal ulna. The angle was not found to be
significantly sexually dimorphic but the distance between the tips of the olecranon and
coronoid processes (A-B in Fig.17) was found to have appreciable dimorphism. The
details of this study are presented in the appendix. Because components of the elbow
joint are often recovered from ancient burials other possibly useful criteria have also been
investigated as part of this current research and included in the appendix.

Purkait and Chandra 2004, Fig. 2.

Various components of femora have been studied to determine sex and have been found
to show considerable accuracy, ranking third behind the pelvis and cranium (Fig.18). The
accuracy for sex allocation is enhanced by the availability of multiple femoral variables
which can be measured. Femur length shows considerable dimorphism with female
femora being 94 per cent the length of male femora, but because there is a considerable
overlap between the sexes this measurement is not as useful for sex differentiation as
other criteria. The diameters of the femoral head have been found to be more effective
with the mean transverse and vertical diameters for males being significantly larger than
females in both the white and native populations in South Africa.
Steyn and Iscan
confirmed that the accuracy for sex discrimination using the femoral head was 86 per
cent, and using the breadth of the distal femur 91per cent.
The accuracy of femoral
elements in determining sex by various authors has been tabulated in Table 6. Different
population groups have been included: Steyn and Iscan
studied white South Africans of
known sex, Safont et al.
used Late Roman material from Spain with the sex estimated
from pelvic and cranial criteria, Dittrich and Suchey
investigated pre-historic remains
from Central California with the sex derived from the pubis, Sakaue,
modern Japanese
material of known sex, France,
sexed specimens from the Tennessee Data Bank,
Dibennardo and Taylor
studied EuropeanAmerican individuals from New York of
documented sex and MacLaughlin and Bruce
looked at a pre-historic Scottish
population, with the sex estimated from the pelvis and cranium. Black
researched a
poorly preserved burial site in Ohio where the sex of a portion of the specimens was also
estimated from the pelvis from which parameters to assess the femurs of the remainder
were derived.

Asala 2001, pp. 1522.
Steyn and Iscan 1997, pp. 111119.
Steyn and Iscan 1997, p. 117.
Safont et al. 2000, p. 323.
Dittrick and Suchey 1986, p. 6.
Sakaue 2004, p. 78.
France 1997, pp. 176177.
DiBennardo and Taylor 1979, p. 637.
MacLaughlin and Bruce 1985, p. 414.
Black 1978, p. 229.
Femoral measurements used for sex allocation
A-B Maximum femur length
C-D Bicondylar length (both distal condyles in contact with base)
G H Bicondylar width
S-T Antero-posterior diameter of midshaft
M-N Medio-lateral diameter of midshaft
M-N Circumference of midshaft
Y-Z Antero-posterior subtrochanteric diameter
W-X Medio-lateral subtrochanteric diameter
E-F Maximum diameter of femoral head


Bass 1987, Fig. 392.
Table 6. Femur metrics: Accuracy in Sex estimation

Femur metrics
Author Steyn Safont

Dittrich Sakaue France Macl'lin Black DiBennardo
late AA* EA**
maximum length 83 78 75 90 80
bicondylar length 85 81
bicondylar width 91 83 89 91 91 92
max.head diameter 85 83 91 87 93
a-p head diam 91
med-lat head diam 88
a-p subtrochanteric diam 69
med-lat. subtroch. diam 62 53
subtroch. Circumference 88
ant-post midshaft diam 80 80
med-lat. midshaft diam 75 65
midshaft circumference 83 85 79 85 83
a-p med condyle 81
a-p lateral condyle 91
transverse diam med con 70
transverse diam lat con 88
midshaft area(cross-sect) 86
max. a-p diam shaft 90
* African Americans **European Americans

Purkait developed another method for determining sex from the proximal femur by taking
measurements related to areas of muscle attachment
. The study was performed on 280
documented adult femora (200 males, 80 females) from Central India. It takes advantage
of the larger, more robust muscle attachments of males (at points B, greater trochanter
and C, lesser trochanter) as well the sex specific morphology in females of the femoral
head related to their pelvic anatomy (point A, the most lateral point of articular margin)
Using the measurements singly the accuracy for sex determination varied
from 62 to 84 per cent, the length between the greater and lesser trochanters (BC) being

Purkait 2005, pp. 135139.
Purkait 2005, pp. 135139.
the most accurate (84 per cent). He found that a combination of two or three of the
measurements gave only marginally better results.
Brown, using documented
specimens from the Terry collection confirmed that the main determinant in the analysis
of the proximal femur was the diameter from the most medial point on the greater
trochanter to the highest point on the lesser trochanter (B-C, Fig 19). By using this alone
an accuracy of 85.5 per cent was achieved but by combining it with the vertical diameter
of the femoral head this was improved to 90 per cent.
The advantage of these methods
is that they can be used on fragmented specimens
Figure 19. Purkaits Triangle

Albanese has sought to overcome the problem of the population specificity of metric
methods by evaluating an area on the proximal femur related to the size and angle of the
femoral neck. This is determined by the length of the pubic bone and therefore sex
specific but not dependent on the overall robusticity and size of the individual and
therefore not population specific.
The pubic bone is relatively longer in females as the
result of changes in growth occurring at puberty which widen the pelvis. At the same
time the relationship of the femora to the pelvis has to be maintained to maximize bipedal

Purkait 2005, pp. 137138.
Brown 2007, pp. 553556.
Purkait 2005, Fig. 1.
Albanese et al. 2008, pp. 12831288.
movement. This results in the angle between the neck and shaft of the femur
demonstrating significant sexual dimorphism with females having a longer femoral neck
and the larger angle.
Where the angle is 40 degrees or less it is likely to be male (83
per cent chance), but if it is 50 degrees or more, it is probably female (75 per cent
This study was performed on over 300 individuals from the Terry Collection
after first being tested on a documented sample from the Grant Collection in Toronto. A
widely varied population was included, the individuals only being defined by date of
birth. This indicates that the method would be useful to allocate sex in situations where
specimens are recovered without any population data being available.

The measurements of the sides of a triangle involving the head of the femur and the
greater and lesser trochanters as well as the angles produced by this triangle were used to
develop equations which when combined with the maximum diameter of the femoral
head correctly assigned sex in over 90 per cent of cases.
A spread sheet is available to
enable the calculations to be easily performed.
The measurements taken were from the
greater trochanter (GT) to the fovea capitus (FC), the greater trochanter to the lesser
trochanter (LT) and the lesser trochanter to the fovea capitus (Fig.20). The advantage of
this method of sex determination, as compared with that of Purkait, is that size variation
does not affect the result so it is not population specific.

Albanese et al. 2008, p. 1283.
Krogman and Iscan 1986, p. 237.
Albanese et al. 2008, p. 1284.
Albanese et al. 2008, p.1285.
Albanese et al. 2008, p. 1286. (
Albanese et al. 2008. p. 1286.

Fig. 20. Landmarks for measurements of size and angle of femoral neck

Dimorphic features of the proximal and distal femur

The adaptation of the female pelvis to childbirth and the resulting larger distance between
the hip joints compared to the male pelvis produces several dimorphic features which
may potentially be useful for sex determination. These include a reduced oblique length,
which is the length of the femur measured on an osteometric board when both femoral
condyles are aligned with the end of the board (Figs. 21). There is also a greater angle of
inclination of the femoral shaft and a reduced angle of torsion. In the female the lateral
condyle is larger than medial condyle, the upper part of shaft is bowed and there is no
retorsion of head (inclining posteriorly) whereas in males the medial condyle is the
larger, the shaft of the femur is straight and retorsion of the head is present.
differences are illustrated in Fig. 21. The different degrees of femoral torsion are shown
in Fig. 22. These differences in femoral morphology between sexes would appear to have
some potential to be exploited in sex differentiation particularly in situations where there
is no known population for comparison. They are also useful when the remains are not
present in numbers large enough to provide a statistically significant sample to enable
differentiation based on skeletal measurements.

Albanese et al. 2008, Fig. 1.
Walmsley 1933, p. 288.

Fig.21. Female femur
Male femur

Walmsley 1933, Fig. 3.
Walmsley 1933, Fig. 4.

Torsion of proximal femur

Torsion (anterior twist of the proximal femur) is more marked in males, being 18 degrees
as compared to 6 degrees in females in the example given by Walmsley.
As an
alternative to measuring the angle directly the degree of torsion can be assessed by the
difference in height of the cervical tubercle and the femoral head when the distal femur is
resting on the femoral condyles (Fig.22).

Fig. 22. Femora with different degrees of torsion (indicated by the difference in level
between the head and cervical tubercle)

These criteria were tested in a preliminary trial on skeletal material from the Museum of
London. The angle of the neck of the femur, the angle of torsion and the inclination of the
femoral shaft were evaluated but in this small series no significant sexual dimorphism
was detected. The details of the study are presented in the appendix.

Walmsley 1933, Figs. 34.
Bass 1987, p. 237.
Bass 1987, Fig. 397.
It can be seen that the best results were those obtained from the measurements of the
components associated with the hip and the knee joints, the femoral head and distal femur
(marked in bold in the table). The accuracy for sex determination for criteria associated
with these was of the order of 90 per cent accuracy. The midshaft circumference was
ranked next in accuracy with the femoral length being generally less effective. As the
proximal and distal segments of the femur are not only accurate criteria, but also
recovered from over 50 per cent of ancient burials
they are significant sex


The tibia is a robust bone which demonstrates significant sexual dimorphism and has
been shown to have criteria which are effective for sex determination. The measurements
taken from the tibia are shown below (Fig.23).

Steyn and Iscan investigating a South African Caucasian population of known sex found
that the distal epiphyseal breadth was the most effective for sex discrimination followed
by the proximal breadth, the antero-posterior diameter, the circumference and the
transverse diameter.
The results obtained by other workers including Sakaue,
contemporary documented Japanese material, Iscan et al.
looking at 20
Chinese, Japanese and Thai samples of known sex, Holland
documented specimens
from the HamannTodd Collection, Slaus and Tomicic
investigated tibia from
mediaeval Croatian sites with the sex based on pelvic and cranial morphology and Safont

examined specimens from the Late Roman period in Spain in whom the sex also had
been estimated from pelvic and cranial criteria. The following table shows the accuracy
obtained by several researchers using various tibial measurements (those of Slaus and
Safont are estimates). (Table 7).

Waldron 1987, p. 59.
Steyn and Iscan 1997, 113114.
Sakaue 2004, p. 78.
Iscan and Miller-Shaivitz 1984, p. 55.
Holland 1991, p. 224.
Slaus and Tomicic 2005, p. 150.
Safont et al 2000, p. 323.

Fig. 23. Measurements of Tibia used for sex determination

A-B Length
S-T Antero-posterior diameter at nutrient foramen
M-N Medio-lateral diameter at nutrient foramen
M-N Circumference at nutrient foramen


Table 7. Tibial Metrics: Accuracy in Sex Determination (%)

Tibia metrics
Author Sakaue Iscan Holland Steyn Slaus Safont

Length 72 81
a-p diam lat artic surface 89
a-p diam med artic surface 84
transverse diam lat a. s. 92
transverse diam med a. s. 86
prox epiph breadth 94 86
a-p diam distal epiph 86
transverse diam dist epiph 89 89 82
max distal artic breadth 83
min distal artic breadth 59
distal artic breadth 61
mid-shaft area 91
Circumference 80
max prox artic surface 95
med prox condyl artic width 86 87
med prox condyl artic length 92
lat prox cond artic width 93
circumference nutrient for 82 91
min circumference 81

These figures confirm the findings of Holland who determined that measurements of the
proximal tibia were very useful in sex determination. He attributed this to the heavy level
of stress affecting the knee joint and as the amount of stress was presumed to be greater
in males it produced significant sexual dimorphism.
The nutrient foramen is also a
suitable feature from which to take measurements as it is easily located, even on tibiae in
poor condition because this portion of the shaft is frequently recovered.

Holland 1991, p. 221.


The talus would be expected to display significant sexual dimorphism as it has a weight-
bearing function proportional to the weight and size differential between the sexes.
has been investigated as an indicator of sex by Steele researching the Terry Collection.

Discriminant function analysis involving the width, length and height of the talus
produced 88 per cent accuracy for sex allocation. Single measurements were not useful
except for the maximum length of the Talus which was taken as the distance between the
sulcus for the flexor hallicus longus posteriorly and the most anterior point on the
articular surface for the navicular.
Measuring the maximum length of the talus alone
gave accuracy for sex designation of 80 per cent.
It was further tested on two Native
American populations in which the sex was correctly assigned in 85 and 80 per cent
Murphy studying a pre-historic Maori population with the sex estimated
by pelvic criteria confirmed that the single best measurement was the talus length.

Wilbur, who assessed talus length and width and talus trochlear length and width,
investigated Native American collections in whom the sex had also been estimated by
pelvic and cranial morphology.
Any of these measurements taken alone had an
estimated correct allocation of over 82 per cent. Barrett et al.
found that talus length,
width and height measurements were estimated to be about 85 per cent correct but
preferred the talus volume, combining all three measurements, which he found to be a
simpler and more reliable measurement.

Barret et al. p.14.
Steele 1976, pp. 584587.
Steele 1976, p. 582.
Steele 1976, pp. 584587.
Steele 1976, p. 585.
Murphy 2002, pp. 155158.
Wilbur 1998, pp. 184185.
Barrett et al. 2001, pp. 1319.

Wilbur, investigating a prehistoric Native American population, sexed previously on
pelvic and cranial criteria, found that adequate measurements of the talus and calcaneus
could be taken for about 70 per cent of the individuals in the study. They were used in
discriminant function analysis and demonstrated an estimated accuracy for sex allocation
of greater than 87 per cent.
Using measurements of calcaneus body height, load arm
width or maximum length Wilbur estimated the sex to be correct in greater than 83 per
cent of cases.
Steele found that sex estimation using the calcaneus alone was 79 per
cent, proving it to be less reliable than the talus.


The patella has been studied for its capacity to be used for sex discrimination and has
been found to have considerable sexual dimorphism. Introna et al.
studied a
documented contemporary Italian population and found that one function incorporating
maximum height and thickness demonstrated an accuracy for sex allocation of 84 per
cent. Mahfouz et al.
used CT scanning to distinguish variations in patella morphology
and produced data which was subjected to statistical analysis and accurately identified the
sex in over 90 per cent of individuals.

Sex determination from dentition

There is considerable sexual dimorphism in tooth size, an effective indicator in the
estimation of sex. Garn et al. found the canines and second molars have greatest
dimorphism with the buccolingual diameter being particularly effective in their
A multivariate approach using six measurements on the canine and second

Wilbur 1998, p. 188.
Wilbur 1998, p. 184.
Steele 1976, p. 585.
Introna et al. 1998, pp. 39-45.
Mahfouz et al. 2007, pp. 161-170.
Garn et al 1966, p. 1819.
molar from the mandible gave a correct result in 82 per cent of previously sexed
individuals. The mandibular canine was the tooth which singly gave the best result (73
per cent).
Dental analysis has also been found to be effective for sex allocation in
subadults. Using discriminant function analysis results in up to 97 per cent of individuals
were consistent with those obtained from pelvic criteria.
The variation in tooth
diameter between males and females is only 0.4-0.5mm so observer error may be a factor
in the estimation.

Sex determination in Sub-adults

Determining the sex in subadults is difficult and according to Bass any attempt is no
better than a guess
. Other workers would not completely agree with this assessment
although the degree of sexual dimorphism is minimal.
The determination of sex in
juveniles is important for demographic studies to determine biases which may be evident
in the status and care of children. It also influences the estimation of age in subadults as
females grow more rapidly and mature earlier than males.
Males are on average larger
than females until puberty. The bone age and dental age of males approximately
correspond but the earlier maturation of females produces a differential with their bone
age being in advance of their dental age. These differences have led to three methods of
sex estimation in juveniles.

Gleiser and Hunt studied Xrays of the teeth and hands of living children and found that
the individual is likely to be female if the bone age is in advance of the dental age but
male if they correspond.
In females the bone age is advanced by approximately one
year between 510 years, two years from 1015 years and one year from 1520 years.

Garn et al 1979, pp. 115117.
.Rosing 1983. pp. 149155.
Hillson1996, p. 82.
Bass 1985, p. 25.
Weaver 1998, pp. 193195.
Saunders 2008, p.117.
Hunt and Gleiser 1955, p. 479.
Krogman and Iscan1986, p. 95.
It was suggested that when dealing with skeletal remains the dentition combined with the
knee would be the best sites to study.

Sex differences in the foetal pelvis have been noted by Boucher.
She studied stillborn
fetuses, measuring the width and depth of the sciatic notch, the ischial and pubic lengths
and the sub-pubic angle. Significant sex differences were found in the sciatic notch
dimensions and the sub-pubic angle. Schutkowski looked at childrens skeletons from
birth to five years of age and found that males had greater sciatic notches that were
deeper and narrower than girls.
These findings were not confirmed in a later study by
Vlak et al. on juveniles from birth to fifteen years indicating that this is not a reliable
indicator of sex in this age-group.

Non-elevation of the auricular surface has been noted in males in the age groups from
prenatal to six months of age.
Weaver analysed 153 fetal and infant skeletons from the
Smithsonian Institute. He found that the auricular surface was not elevated in over 90 per
cent of males in the prenatal and six month age groups and in 73 per cent in the newborn
group. In females it was not as accurate with 75 per cent correct in the prenatal group but
only 54 and 43 per cent in the newborns and those aged six months.

Sex differentiation in subadults is very often not possible but if suitable skeletal remains
are recovered then this is achievable for some individuals. There is no established
method, however, by which this can be consistently performed.

Hunt and Gleiser 1955, p. 485.
Boucher 1957, p.581600.
Schutkowski 1993, p, 203.
Vlak et al 2008, p. 313.
Weaver 1980, p.194.
Rosing 1983, p. 149.

An examination the pelvic bones and to a lesser extent the cranium have been shown to
provide the greatest accuracy for the sex determination of human skeletal remains.
Applying a combination of the most accurate criteria for the pelvis produced a correct sex
allocation in 98% of individuals with an intra-observer error of less than 5% (see Table
3). The level of accuracy however is variable and is dependent on the preservation of the
skeletal material and the experience of the observer. In the case of the cranium visual
assessment using the best criteria was accurate in 94% of subjects with an intra-observer
error of 10% (see Table 1). Metric analysis of the cranium by Giles and Elliott produced
results of 8289%.

The sex determined by the pelvis has been used as the benchmark in situations where the
population being studied is undocumented with no other populationspecific skeletal
material available to provide parameters for comparison. Many of the papers which dealt
with undocumented skeletal material and referred to in this thesis, obtained their initial
sex allocation from pelves and used the terms accuracy, correct allocation and sex
determination in their analyses. (for example Dittrich and Suchey(1986), Murphy (2002),
Safont et al. (2000), Slaus and Tomicic (2005)). This terminology is not strictly correct
as the results should be qualified by stating their consistency with sex allocation obtained
by pelvic assessment rather than true accuracy which can only be obtained from a
documented source.

It has been demonstrated that skeletal elements associated with joints have shown the
most sexual dimorphism due to the greater stresses applied to them with physical activity,
presumed to be greater in males, which accentuates the dimorphism associated with their
normal greater robusticity. Criteria related to these have proven to be the most reliable
for sex allocation.
This has been confirmed from the published research material with
measurements of the humerus involving the head diameter and epicondylar breadth, the
femoral head and bicondylar breadth and the distal epiphyseal breadth of the tibia being
prominent in their accuracy in sex allocation (Tables 4, 6, 7).

Further investigations have been carried out for this study involving the proximal femur
and components of the elbow joint to determine their value in determining sex. These
elements were chosen as they are often recovered from ancient burials where other
material is either not present or not suitable for analysis. The material examined was at
the Museum of London, Osteology Department. The results for the femur involved the
degree of torsion of the femoral head, the bicondylar angle and the angle of the femoral
neck did not reveal significant dimorphism. By contrast, the results for the elbow
components indicated that as well as the epicondylar breadth and the maximum diameter
of the head of the radius, other criteria related to the elbow joint including the depth of
the olecranon fossa and the distance between the tips of the olecranon and coronoid
processes of the ulna showed significant dimorphism and could be potentially be usefully
included in the assessment of ancient remains particularly in the absence of pelvic or
cranial material. The details of these investigations are presented in the appendix.

The skeletal remains recovered from an ancient archaeological site do not always provide
the number of individual elements which would be normally regarded as statistically
significant. It has been indicated (above) that forty specimens are necessary to obtain
significant results although the scatter plot produced by Albanese where the accuracy for
sex determination is assessed with respect to the sex ratio (with one sex up to double the
other) and sample size (varying from less than 20 to more than 79) indicates that this is
not necessarily correct (Fig. 24). The figures which were derived from data taken from
the Coimbra Collection in Portugal show that even the samples with the lowest number of
specimens (less than twenty, tabled on the right side of the graph) have accuracies at
least approaching 80 per cent.
This would suggest that an acceptable result (accuracy

Albanese 2005, p. 148.
Albanese 2005, 147.
for correct allocation of at least 80%) can be obtained in spite of the available samples
being numerically relatively small when the skeletal criteria being assessed have
significant sexual dimorphism. It should be highlighted that the accuracy of small
samples is dependent on the criteria being assessed having significant sexual dimorphism
otherwise spurious results may be obtained due to under sampling population diversity.
Fig. 24. Scatter plot of accuracy by sex ratio and sample size for Coimbra
Collection Data.

This proposition has been investigated as part of the current research by examining
documented samples from the Museum of London. These confirmed that reliable results
can be obtained with relatively numerically small samples when the criteria being
examined exhibit significant sexual dimorphism. The details of this study is also
presented in the appendix.

The visual examination of morphology, being usually based on a scale of five gradations
of characteristics, will show a middle grade in which the sex is indeterminate and the
allocations on each side of the middle being possibly female or possibly male (e.g. for the
cranium and sciatic notch). By contrast, using a metric analysis the numerical finite
results make it much less likely to get an indeterminate result. This only occurs when the

Albanese et al. Fig. 2.
result exactly corresponds with the section point, which can usually be resolved by
applying extra weighting to the most accurate criterion. In the case of metric analysis the
overlap section of the bimodal curve (see Fig. 1) represents the indeterminate specimens
(containing the larger females and smaller males). A degree of error in the sex estimation
by metric analysis is inevitable owing to biological variation in human dimensions, even
in the same population. The error in allocation is proportional to the area of the overlap
in the bimodal curve and reduces as the difference between the male and female means


Chapter Four

Research Material


Historical setting of the research population

The focus of this study was to determine, as far as possible, the sex of ancient human
remains recovered from the burial ground at Samtavro, in the Republic of Georgia (Fig.
25), during archaeological excavations carried out in 2008 and 2009. This was a part of
an investigation into the physical anthropology and archaeology of the area carried out by
a team from the University of Melbourne and the Georgian National Museum. Samtavro
is on the periphery of Mtskheta, the former capital of Georgia. Samtavro was the main
burial ground of Iberia, a kingdom that stretched across the east of Georgia from 300
BCE580 CE. Iberia was part of the GraecoRoman culture with well established cities,
sophisticated architecture and settled farm lands which have been described by Strabo.

He described two distinct populations, those on the plains were peaceful, practiced
agriculture and had much in common with the Armenians to the south in contrast to the
people in the surrounding mountains who were warriors and very similar to the Scythians
in the north. In the region of Mtskheta there is archaeological evidence of a prosperous
society during that period with dwellings with tiled roofs, bath-houses and a columned
hall. Nearby Armaziskhevi was the site of elite burials with early burials in stone
sarcophagi within a two-room mausoleum and associated with substantial funerary
goods. Surrounding this site were significant residential buildings and a Roman bath-
The main language of the elite was Greek as noted on inscriptions tombstones

Strabo Geog. III 1.
Braund 1994, p. 205.
and tiles produced locally. The Georgian language did not evolve until after the arrival of
Christianity in the fourth century CE.

Braund 1994, pp. 212215.
Fig. 25. Maps of Georgia, showing the location of Mtskheta, north of Tbilisi (a) and
Samtavro (b).

During the third and fourth centuries BCE Roman influence in Iberia decreased and by
the end of this period it was controlled by Persia.

Mtskheta was the principal city of Iberia, situated on the junction of major rivers from the
north as well as from the east and west. The burials at Mtskheta attest to the rapidly
expanding population from the first century CE.
Samtavro has over 3000 burials on a
twenty hectare site dating from the second millennium BCE to the eighth century CE.

During this period Iberia was a stable and prosperous kingdom negotiating with the
governments of Rome and Persia until it was absorbed into the Persian Empire.
It was
a multicultural community with multiple ethnic origins particularly in evidence along the
southern and northern borders, with numerous languages being spoken as noted by the
Romans who required a large number of interpreters to assist them with their trading
In spite of this evidence for a multi-ethnic population a morphological
study of crania retrieved from previous excavations at Samtavro, which covered the
period from the 5
century BCE to the third century CE, show no marked difference in
cranial features.
The crania are relatively long and narrow, of medium height with a
narrow, fairly long face and a strongly projecting nose. This cranial type is described as
being analogous to the Mediterranean branch of Europeans
. It would appear that there
has been at least to some degree, continuity in the population throughout the period from
the Bronze and early Iron Age to the early medieval period. The tombs excavated during
the present study date from the latter part of this era, from the first to the fifth centuries
CE. Four different types of tombs have been recognized. Cist tombs lined by large stone
slabs common in the fourth century, modest tile-lined tombs associated with the late

Sagona 2010, Fig.1.
Braund 1994, p. 5.
Braund 1994, p. 205.
Sagona et al., 2010, p. 7.
Rapp 2003, pp. 485487.
Braund 1994, p. 59.
Alekseev 1964, pp. 350-351.
Alekseev 1964, p. 348.
Roman period, other modest tombs constructed of rectangular stone blocks and the
poorest, comprising earthen pits with a stone or tile marker.
Examples of tile-lined
tombs and stone cist tombs had radiocarbon readings of 130330 AD and 420560 AD
Evidence of secondary burials was present with remains being
commingled and in addition, some ritual activity was in evidence with the purposeful re
arrangement of long bones in some tombs. The secondary burial activity, as well as
possible looting, accounted for the disarticulation, fragmentation and absence of many of
the skeletal elements, which, together with the age of the remains and environmental
deterioration, was responsible for the difficulties encountered in the investigation of this
skeletal material.


The basic equipment used for the assessment of the skeletal elements was a standard
osteometric board to measure long bones, vernier calipers for assessing cranial diameters
as well as a co-ordinate caliper to calculate subtenses (the depth of a curved surface of the
skull). A spreading caliper was necessary to measure diameters over irregular cranial
surfaces. Templates were constructed and used to assess various cranial and pelvic
criteria as based on the diagrams shown in Fig. 2 and Fig. 7 respectively. In this study
the subpubic angle was also assessed by comparing it to a template (Fig. 8) which
depicted a ninety degree angle so even if only one half of the pelvis was present the
subpubic angle was able to be estimated by being greater or less than forty-five degrees
from the midline.

Skeletal Material

The skeletal material recovered during the excavations at Samtavro in 20082009 was
examined for this study. Twenty-four tombs yielded the remains of sixty individuals,
forty-nine adults and eleven sub-adults. Adults were defined as having an estimated age

Sagona et al. 2010, p. 8.
Sagona et al. 2010, p. 135.
of at least eighteen years. The age of the subadults was estimated by the dental eruption
and the diaphyseal length of long bones.
The state of epiphyseal closure

distinguished subadults and young adults. The age of older adults was assessed by
cranial suture closure
. The basilar (spheno-occipital) suture is particularly reliable in
the timing of its fusion (before 21years in males).
The assessment of dental attrition is
also helpful
as well as the pubic symphysis
and auricular surface morphology.

Condition of Skeletal Remains

Most of the skeletal remains were recovered from stone or tiled tombs with a small
number from earthen pit graves. They were at the base of a slope and although appeared
dry at the time of excavation no doubt would have been affected by ground water in the
past. As noted above there was evidence of secondary human activity resulting in the
fracture, displacement, commingling and loss of skeletal elements. The chart below
(Table 8) shows the frequency of recovery of specific skeletal elements either in a
complete or partial condition and containing at least some of the criteria which could be
utilised for sex determination. These are detailed further when individual bones are
recorded in Tables 2629.

Ubelaker 1978, pp. 112-113.
Ubelaker 1978, pp. 48-49.
Brothwell 1981, p. 66.
Buikstra and Ubelaker 1994, pp. 32-38.
Steele and Bramblett 1988, p. 56.
Smith 1984, p. 46.
Katz and Suchey 1986, pp. 427435.
Lovejoy et al. 1985, pp. 1528.

Table 8. Skeletal material recovered

humerus 31
Radius 12
Ulna 17
Femur 22
Tibia 23
Fibula 6
talus 33
calcaneus 17
Patella 21
Pelvis 25
Cranium 24

Individual remains
Total 60
Adults 49
Subadults 11


Pelvic elements.

Twenty-seven (55 per cent) of the adult specimens had pelvic elements which displayed
at least some of the traits most often used for sex allocation. The frequency that
individual criteria were present and able to be assessed is shown in Table 9. Their
relative importance, as determined by their accuracy in determining sex, is indicated in
Table 3.

Table 9. Relative frequency of occurrence of sex determinants in pelvic elements in
adults from Samtavro.

Ventral arc
16% (4)
Subpubic concavity
24% (6)
Ischial ridge
20% (5)
Sciatic notch

Subpubic angle
24% (6)
Pubic length
8% (2)
Pelvic inlet
20% (5)
True pelvic size
20% (5)
Acetabular size
Muscle markings
Ischial flaring
20% (5)
Sacral shape
28% (7)
Pre-auricular sulcus
Auricular surface

Cranial elements

The skeletal remains at Samtavro contained cranial elements suitable for sex allocation in
49 per cent (24) of individuals. The fragmented nature of the material made it impossible
to assess many of the commonly used cranial traits although it was feasible to reconstruct
some of the crania which allowed a limited assessment to take place. In Table 10 the
particular cranial traits which were available and their frequency of occurrence are

Table 10. Occurrence of assessable cranial traits at Samtavro

Cranium, size and shape 18% (9)
supraorbital margins 24% (12)
supraorbital ridges 24% (12)
Glabella 14% (7)
Mastoid 37% (18)
nuchal crest 22% (11)
mental eminence 35% (17)
gonial angle 27% (13)

There were no complete skulls present but the skulls which were partially reconstructed
and had components present which could be used for sex allocation are included in this


Post-cranial skeletal remains

This includes post-cranial material which is complete or incomplete but contains skeletal
elements in which criteria can be assessed for sex allocation.

Scapula: glenoid cavity

There were 13 cases in which the scapula was at least partially present and the length of
the glenoid cavity could be assessed.


Humeri were present in 60 per cent of the individuals excavated but in most cases they
were fragmented and incomplete as shown in Table 11.

Table 11. Humeri from Samtavro.

Number of skeletons (adults) 49
Number with humeri 31
(partial or complete)
Number of complete humeri 9
Number of partial humeri 22


There were 22 specimens in which some femoral elements were available for assessment.
The number of individual skeletal criteria (variables) available for assessment is shown in
Table 12.

Table 12. Specimens from Samtavro with femoral criteria.

Variables Number
Maximum length 11
Bicondylar length 8
Bicondylar width 15
Ant-post. midshaft 22
Med-lat. midshaft 22
Circumf. Midshaft 22
Subtroch. Ant-post 21
Subtroch med-lat 20
Max. head diameter 19


There were 23 specimens in which tibial criteria could be assessed. The frequency of
individual skeletal elements available is indicated in Table 13.

Table 13. Tibial criteria for sex determination

Variables Numbers
Maximum length 10
Antero-posterior diameter at nutrient foramen 23
Medio-lateral diameter at nutrient foramen 23
Circumference at nutrient foramen 23

Minor Elements

The number of individuals in which at least one side of these minor elements was
recovered is shown in Table 14.

Table 14. Minor skeletal elements at Samtavro

Number %
Talus 33 67

Calcaneus 17 34

Patella 21 43


Chapter 5

Results and Discussion

The skeletal remains for this study were excavated from the burial ground at Samtavro in
2008-2009. Twenty-four tombs yielded the remains of sixty individuals, forty-nine adults
and eleven sub-adults. Most of the remains were fragmented, incomplete and
commingled. The initial sex allocation utilised the primary sex determinants, the pelvis
and the cranium, where these were available, followed by an examination of the
remaining postcranial remains. The methods of assessment of each of the skeletal
components were undertaken as indicated in Chapter Two. The results of these analyses
are tabulated below together with a discussion as to their significance.

Analysis of Pelvis

In twenty- seven specimens sex could be allocated using pelvic criteria. This was 55 per
cent of the total sample of adult skeletons and comprised thirteen females and fourteen
males. The individual specimens which were able to have their sex determined and the
criteria utilised are shown in Table 15. It is noted that the sciatic notch and the pre-
auricular sulcus were the most useful criteria, the sciatic notch was able to be assessed in
22 (80 per cent) of these cases and the pre-auricular sulcus in 18(66 per cent).
Both have been shown to have accuracy for determining sex of over 85 per cent (see
Table 5). Each pelvic criterion has been scored from one to three with a score of one
indicating female, two indeterminate and three male. (The sciatic notch was originally
scored from one to five but this has been reduced to one to three to align it with the other
criteria). The final sex allocation is based on the mean of the scores available for each
individual, with a score of two taken as the cut-off separating males and females. In three
specimens the mean score corresponded with the cut-off so in allocating the sex in these
extra weighting was given to the score given by the sciatic notch as this has been
demonstrated to be a particularly accurate feature (Table 3) and commonly could be
assessed. Rogers used this method in which extra weighting was given to the most
accurate criterion where there was an indeterminate result.

Table 15. Sex allocation by pelvic criteria.

Pelvic ventral subpubic ischial sciatic subpubic aceta- muscle ischial sacral
auricular auricular mean sex
Criteria Arc concavity ridge notch angle bulum markings flaring shape sulcus surface allocated
1/SM1 5 (3) 3 3 1 2.5 M
1/SM6 3 3 3 4 (3) 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 M
1/SM7 2 (1) 1 2 2 1.5 F
1/SM8 3 1 1 1 (1) 1 1 1 3 1 1 3 1.5 F
2/SM2 3 (2) 3 3 3 2.7 M
3/SM3 2 (1) 1 3 2 1.8 F
3/SM4 3 (2) 3 2 3 2.5 M
6/SM1 3 (2) 2 M
7/SM1 2 1 2 2 2 1.8 F
16/SM1 1 (1) 3 2 F
18/SM1 1 (1) 1 F
19/SM1 2 (1) 1 1 3 3 2 1.8 F
22/SM1 3 1 3 M
22/SM2 3 3 3 M
22/SM3 1 (1) 2 1.5 F
22/SM4 1 (1) 1 F
22/SM5 3 3 M
23/SM2 2 1 3 (2) 3 3 2.2 M
27/SM1 2 (1) 2 3 3 2.3 M
27/SM3 3 (2) 3 3 2.7 M
28/SM1 5 (3) 3 3 3 3 M
28/SM3 3 3 3 M
30/SM1 1 (1) 1 3 1 1.5 F
32/SM1 1 1 2 (1) 1 2 1 2 1 1 1.2 F
Be c 3 2 1 4 (3) 3 3 3 2 3 3 2.6 M
34SM1 1 1 1 1 (1) 1 3 3 1.6 F
498/SM1 1 (1) 3 2 F

Rogers 1999, p. 60.
There were 24 of the 27 specimens in whom pelvic elements were recovered which were
able to be assessed by multiple pelvic criteria so these would be expected to be correctly
assigned in over 80% of individuals based on the rate of correct allocation reported
(Table 3). Two of the remainder were assessed by the sciatic notch and the other by the
pre-auricular sulcus, both of which have been shown to have accuracy for correct
allocation of over 80% (Table 5). The allocation of sex based on the pelvic criteria is
therefore the benchmark by which the results determined from the analysis of other post-
cranial is appraised.

Analysis of Cranium

There were twenty-six adult specimens recovered with crania that had morphological
traits present suitable for sex determination (Table 16). The traits were scored from one
to five and the mean of the scores derived from those traits available from each individual
calculated. A score of less than three indicated a female and greater than three, a male. A
score of exactly three gave an indeterminate result. This occurred in two individuals
(5/SM3 and 22/SM3) where only the mental eminence was available for assessment.

On the basis of these results twenty-five individuals were able to have the sex allocated
with two specimens indeterminate. The sex allocation derived from pelvic criteria is
shown for comparison. It is noted than of the eleven specimens that had an associated
pelvis the allocation using cranial traits was consistent in nine cases (82 per cent).
Only four specimens could be satisfactorily reconstructed to obtain a significant number
of the measurements required for CRANID analysis. Unfortunately many of these
measurements were out of range for this program so no results for sex determination
could be achieved. It is possible that these individuals were not included in the
populations covered in CRANID but with over sixty populations in the database this
would be very unlikely. It is more feasible that it was due to the incomplete, fragmented
and damaged condition of the crania recovered made an accurate reconstruction very
difficult. It is also possible that artificial deformation was also present. It is known to
have occurred in the Caucasus and other crania have shown evidence of this. It may be
attributable to cultural practices or to some degree to birthing practices which encouraged
this deformation to occur.

Table 16. Sex determination of crania by morphological analysis.


supraorbital supraorbital glabella mastoid nuchal

mental gonial mean Allocated sex
Specimen shape margins ridges Crest eminence angle Cranium Pelvis
1/SM2 2 2 1 2 1 1.6 F
1/SM3 3 4 4 5 5 5 5 4.4 M
1/SM4 3 1 2 F
2/SM1 1 3 1 1 1 1 2 5 1.8 F
2/SM2 1 2 2 3 1 3 2 F M
5/SM2 3 2 3 4 3 1 2.6 F
5/SM3 3 3 Indet
6/SM1 3 1 2 1 3 5 2.5 F M
7/SM1 1 1 3 5 2.5 F F
16/SM1 2 1 1 2 2 3 1.8 F
19/SM1 1 1 1 1 F
21/SM1 1 1 F
21/SM2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1.5 F
22/SM1 5 5 M M
22/SM2 2 5 3.5 M M
22/SM3 3 3 Indet F
22/SM7 1 1 F
27/SM3 3 3 3 3 4 3 3.3 M
28/SM1 4 4 M M
28/SM3 3 4 3 3 3 3.2 M M
29/SM1 1 1 4 2 3 2.2 F
30/SM1 1 2 1 1 1 2 1 1.2 F F
33/SM1 1 4 4 4 2 5 3.3 M M
33/SM2 1 1 1 2 1.2 F
34/SM1 2 2 2 3 3 2 1 2.1 F F
498/1 1 1 1 1 1 F F
498/2 1 1 1 1 F

Abdushelishvili 1968, p.181.

Analysis of Post-Cranial Skeletal Remains

The investigation of the post-cranial material is based on the metric analysis of each
skeletal criterion and then determining the section point separating males and females
from the mean of the whole sample. The sample sizes for the individual criterion do not
reach the minimum size for consistent allocation based on the work of Albanese
but it
has been demonstrated that even with smaller samples accuracy correct allocation can be
achieved in 80% of specimens (as discussed above). The final sex for each skeletal
element is then estimated by a summation of the results for each of the individual criteria.


The length of the glenoid cavity was measured as shown above in Fig. 11. There were
twelve individuals in whom the sex could be estimated using this criterion (Table 12).
The sex of individuals previously estimated from pelvic criteria, where this is available,
is shown for comparison.

Even with this relatively small number the method of sex allocation appears to be reliable
with five out of the six specimens previously assessed by pelvic criteria having the same
sex allocated. It is also noted that the section point derived from this examination (36
mm.) corresponded to that obtained by Stewarts analysis of material from the Terry

Stewart1979, p.98.

Table 17. Glenoid cavity length and sex allocation

length and

allocation allocation
point 36
1/SM1 39 M M
5/SM2 47 M M
6/SM1 38 M M
7/SM1 38 M F
16/SM1 36 indet. F
18/SM2 37 M
19/SM1 35 F F
21/SM2 33 F
21/SM3 36 indet.
22/SM1 38 M M
22/SM4 31 F
22/SM5 26 F
28/SM2 35 F



The section points for sex allocation based on humeral traits were taken as the mean of
the whole sample. For comparison the section points obtained from the midpoint of the
male and female means of the specimens previously sexed by pelvic criteria, as described
above, are also shown. It is noted that there is very little difference in the results, 95 for
the mean derived from the sample with associated pelvic/cranial material available as
compared to 94 for the overall mean, (Table 18) indicating that the figures are acceptable
in spite of the small sample sizes. The overall mean was used because it was derived
from the larger sample. As noted previously Albanese found there was little difference in
calculating the section point from the overall mean (when the sex ratio was not greater
than 1:1.5) or the midpoint of the means derived from those specimens previously sexed
from pelvic criteria.
Values, which exactly corresponded with the section point, were
regarded as indeterminate. The final sex allocation for each specimen was determined by
a summation of the sex estimations obtained for each of the available criteria. There were
17 skeletal individuals who had fairly complete humeri from which accurate
measurements could be taken and also had been able to be assessed using pelvic and/or
cranial traits. There was a good correlation (88 per cent) in the allocated sex between
these assessments (Table 18). It is noted that the mid-shaft circumference correlated in
15 of 17 specimens and the least circumference of the shaft in 13 of 17 and the minimum
mid-shaft diameter in 14 of 16 specimens. Humeral length correlated in only 6 of 9
specimens, this discrepancy was particularly apparent in specimen 27/3, with a
comparatively small length, within the female range, whereas the other measurements
were within the male range suggesting an error most likely due to mis-allocation of these
commingled skeletal remains.

Albanese et al. 2005, p. 147.

Table 18. Measurements of humerus and sex allocation.

length max. minimum Circumf. least sex pelvic
midshaft midshaft midshaft circ. Sex
section pt.
(mid-pt. of
male and
female means)
310 20 18 66 63
section pt.
(overall mean) 303 22 18 66 61
1/ SM7 331 M 30 M 22 M 85 M 81 M M F
1/SM8 307 F 20 F 16 F 61 F 57 F F F
2/SM2 302 F 20 F 16 F 73 M 59 F F M
3/SM4 307 M 25 M 19 M 76 M 75 M M M
6/SM1 19 F 17 F 56 F 51 F F M
7/SM1 21 F 16 F 62 F 55 F F F
16/SM1 297 F 17 F 17 F 59 F 54 F F F
18/SM1 18 F 16 F 55 F 53 F F F
19/SM1 296 F 21 F 14 F 59 F 54 F F F
22/SM3 302 F 19 F 16 F 58 F 58 F F F
23/SM2 326 M 22 indet. 19 M 67 M 65 M M M
27/SM3 247 F 24 M 19 M 68 M 64 M M M
28/ SM1 24 M 22 M 76 M 70 M M M
28/SM2 20 F 15 F 72 M 59 F F
28/SM3 22 indet. 18 indet. 67 M 64 M M M
32/SM1 18 F 15 F 58 F 55 F F F
33/SM1 26 M 20 M 74 M 67 M M M
34/SM1 312 M 21 F 16 F 65 F 61 indet. F F



There were 27 femora available for assessment but only five were intact so
in the remainder the analyses were incomplete. The mean for each
criterion was taken as the section point, dividing males and females.
(Table 19). The final sex allocation for each specimen was determined by
the relative frequencies of each sex allocated for the individual criteria.
Where the outcome was indeterminate the most accurate criteria as
indicated in Table 6 was given extra weighting to obtain a result.

Section points corresponding to those for the criteria in Table 19 which have been
derived from other sources (Europeans) are shown in Table 20 for comparison. It is seen
that substituting these figures into the calculations would not appreciably alter the results.

Table 19. Femoral measurements to determine sex

max bicondylar ant-post med-lat circ ant-post med-lat Head sex
length length Width midshaft midshaft midshaft subtroch subtroch diam. allocated
Section pt. 434 442 76 25 26 81 27 33 44
1/SM1 441 M 446 M 35 M 31 M 101 M 37 M 39 M 51 M M
1/SM6 83 M 34 M 31 M 48 M M
1/SM7 30 M 27 M 89 M 27 indet. 31 F 43 F M
1/SM8 438 M 436 F 75 F 28 M 28 F 89 M 26 F 37 M 43 F F
2/SM1 64 F 26 M 25 F 81 indet. 25 F 30 F 44indet F
2/SM2 28 M 25 F 87 M M
3/SM2 79 M M
3/SM3 422 F 82 M 29 M 29 M 103 M 27 indet. 31 F M
6/SM1 385 F 23 F 24 F 75 F 28 M 32 F 42 F F
7/SM1 25 indet 25 F 77 F 27 indet. 30 F F
16/SM1 24 F 25 F 77 F 25 F 29 F 40 F F
18/SM1 422 F 418 F 72 F 25 indet 23 F 76 F 25 F 27 F 39 F F
18/SM2 74 F 20 F 20 F 67 F F
19/SM1 414 F 413 F 70 F 26 M 25 F 82 M 26 F 32 F 40 F F
21/SM1 425 F 420 F 84 M 26 M 27 M 87 M 25 F 31 F 46 M M
22/SM1 24 F 28 F 45 M F
23/SM1 31 M 36 M 47 M M
23/SM2 482 M 479 M 33 M 27 M 95 M 34 M 29 F 48 M M
23/SM3 80 M M
24/SM1 30 M 28 M 91 M 28 M 32 F 47 M M
27/SM1 74 F 26 M 22 F 80 F 41 F F
27/SM3 502 M 490 M 85 M 30 M 28 M 92 M 28 M 34 M M
28/SM1 23 F 25 F 82 M F
28/SM3 75 F 29 M 28 M 91 M 26 F 29 F M
30/SM1 25 F 30 F 41 F F
32/SM1 73 F 24 F 31 F 41 F F
34/SM1 438 M 433 F 75 F 25 indet 25 F 81 indet 30 M 31 M 42 F F
498/SM1 404 F 27 M 26 indet 89 M 24 F 35 M 48 M M

Table 20. Section points for femoral criteria derived from other sources.

(European Americans)

Maximum length 436mm
Circumference 86mm
Antero-posterior diameter 28mm
Medio-lateral diameter 26.5mm
Bicondylar width 75 mm

The sex allocated from the femoral measurements was then also compared to the sex
determined from the pelvic criteria (Table 36). They were found to correspond in 10 (77
per cent) of the 13 specimens which had an associated pelvis.

The section point derived from the mid-point of the male and female means (the sexes
predetermined from pelvic criteria) was nearly identical to the section point derived from
the mean of the whole sample (137 as compared to 139). The estimations of sex derived
from the limited number of femora available gave a result of 77 per cent consistency with
that obtained from the pelvis.

DiBennardo and Taylor 1979, p.636
Bass 1987, p.230.
Table 21. Comparison of sex determined from femoral and pelvic measurements

sex (from
section pt
(overall mean)

1/SM1 M M
1/SM6 M
1/SM7 M
1/SM8 F F
2/SM1 F
2/SM2 M M
3/SM2 M
3/SM3 M
6/SM1 F
7/SM1 F
16/SM1 F F
18/SM1 F F
18/SM2 F
19/SM1 F F
21/SM1 M
22/SM1 F M
23/SM1 M
23/SM2 M M
23/SM3 M
24/SM1 M
27/SM1 F
27/SM3 M M
28/SM1 F M
28/SM3 F M
30/SM1 F
32/SM1 F F
34/SM1 F F
498/SM1 M

Table 22. Comparison of individual femoral measurements compared to pelvic
criteria in determining sex

5/11 7/8 14/15 15/22 19/22 15/21 15/21 15/21 16/19

In the estimations of individual criteria the bicondylar length, the bicondylar width and
the maximum head diameter contributed the most consistent results in this sample.
(Table 22.) The maximum length of the femur gave the results which were the least
consistent. This would indicate that consideration be given to applying greater weight to
the more consistent criteria which would improve the results for the sex allocation.


There were 24 specimens of the tibia from which measurements were able to be taken to
allocate sex and of these 12 had associated pelves enabling a comparison of the results to
assess the reliability of these estimations (Table 23). The section point for each of the
tibial criteria examined was derived from the mean of the whole sample.
Where the result was indeterminate extra weighting was given to the circumference at
the nutrient foramen, as this has been shown to have high accuracy for sex determination
(Table 7).

There was a reasonable correlation between the measurements derived from the tibiae
and those from the pelves with 9 of the 12 in which the sex had been previously
determined by pelvic criteria (75 per cent) allocating the same sex. The most reliable
criterion was the medio-lateral diameter of the nutrient foramen with an 83 per cent

max. bicond. bicond. ant-post med-lat circ ant-post med-lat head
length length Width midshaft midshaft midshaft subtroch subtroch diam.

Table 23. Determination of sex from tibia

Tibia length
diam. at
med-lat. Circumference sex Pelvic sex

foramen at nutrient f. allocated Allocation
pt 351 28 23 80
1/SM1 20 F 26 M 80 indet Indet. F
1/SM7 376 M 42 M 27 M 110 M M
1/SM8 31 M 20 F 90 M M F
2/SM2 28 indet 24 M 90 M M M
3/SM2 32 M 24 M 97 M M
3/SM4 370 M 37 M 24 M 97 M M
6/SM1 24 F 22 F 75 F F
7/SM1 26 F 18 F 74 F F
16/SM1 317 F 23 F 18 F 66 F F F
18/SM1 26 F 19 F 68 F F F
19/SM1 347 F 24 F 22 F 85 M F F
21/SM1 29 M 20 F 88 M M
21/SM2 24 F 23 indet 74 F F
21/SM3 20 F 26 F 81 M F
22/SM1 35 M 24 M 105 M M M
23/SM2 364 M 35 M 24 M 100 M M M
23/SM3 35 M 23 indet 91 M M
27/SM1 352 M 20 F 26 M 81 F F
27/SM3 387 M 34 M 27 M 98 M M M
28/SM1 35 M 31 M 107 M M
28/SM3 324 F 29 M 22 F 81 M M M
32SM/1 29 M 19 F 79 F F F
34/SM1 347 F 30 M 21 F 83 M M F
498/SM2 325 F F



The teeth which were examined for sex determination were the upper and lower canines
and the upper and lower second molars.

The measurements taken were:
Canine: labial ligual
Molars: bucco lingual / mesial
bucco lingual /distal

The comparison of sex allocation based on dental criteria with that based on pelvic traits
(Table 24) in this sample suggested that the dental measurements were not a reliable
method of assessment, at least in this population, with only a 60 per cent correlation.
This may in part be due to dental attrition making the measurements less than would be
expected. There is evidence in Table 24 to suggest that this is the case with three out of
the four incorrect allocations being males allocated as females when compared to the
pelvic allocation. The range of the measurements for each criterion is only about 3 mm
with the differences between male and female means only 1 mm making observer error a
limiting factor in the allocation of sex by this method.


Table 24. Allocation based on Dental measurements

1/SM2 11.06 M 10.29M 10.68 10.1 M
1/SM3 8.24M 8.24F 8.24 8.78 F
2/SM2 6.64F 7.36F 8.48F 9.1F 8.76F 8.07 9.49 F
5/SM2 9.02M 10.34F 11.27M 8.72M 9.62F 9.77F 9.78 9.18 M
5/SM3 7.08F 7.43F 9.05F 8.07M 7.9 8.72 F
6/SM1 7.41F 10.6M 9.65F 6.81F 9.96M 10.03M 9.08 9.18 F
7/SM1 7.56F 10.26F 10.59M 7.1F 9.4F 10.52M 9.24 9.18 M
16/SM1 7.17F 10.53M 8.97F 7.08F 10.13M 9.2F 8.85 9.18 F
19SM1 7.47F 10.31F 9.9M 9.39F 9.2F 9.25 9.49 F
21/SM1 8.38M 11.45M 10.29M 8.53M 9.66 8.85 M
21/SM2 9.2M 11.61M 10.44M 10.42 9.27 M
21/SM3 6.62F 10.36F 9F 7.5F 9.24F 8.18F 8.48 9.18 F
22/SM1 8.51M 11.29M 10.81M 9.14M 10.62M 9.8F 10.02 9.18 M M
22SM2 9.44F 8.37F 8.9 10.1 F M
22/SM4 7.77M 8.17M 7.97 7.6 M F
22SM5 6.2F 6.2 7.59 F M
23SM1 9.88M 10.19M 10.04 9.83 M
23SM3 7.6M 8.25M 7.93 7.6 M
27SM1 7.03F 8.1M 8.42F 7.85 9.09 F M
27/SM3 6.2F 6.2 7.6 F
28/SM1 10.46M 9.27F 9.87 9.84 M M
28/SM2 8.09F 8.46F 8.28 10.1 F
28/SM3 11.4M 9.89M 7.14F 9.67M 9.68F 9.56 9.5 M M
29/SM1 8.04M 10.29F 9.72F 9.35 9.27 M
30/SM1 7.44F 10.58M 8.97F 6.9F 9.97M 9.02F 8.81 9.18 F F
32/SM1 5.98F 5.98 7.6 F F
33SM1 7.92M 10.42M 10.64M 7.7M 10.57M 10.66M 9.67 9.18 M M
34/SM1 7.76M 11.65M 11.07M 7.43F 10.26M 10.46M 9.77 9.18 M
498/SM2 8.39M 10.61M 9.66F 7.65M 9.08 8.85 M
point 7.59 10.4 9.81 7.6 9.7 9.97 9.18


Sex allocation of subadults

There were eleven subadults identified and of these an indication of the sex was able to
be estimated in three individuals. (Table 25). The sex of these three subadults was based
on the relative age of the dental age as compared to their skeletal age. Comparing the
pattern of dental development with a dental chart showing the sequence of dental
eruption, enabled the dental age of individuals to be assessed.
Skeletal age was
estimated by examining the post-cranial skeletal material to determine the stage of
epiphyseal closure. These were then compared with published figures to determine the
relevant age.
In two cases the skeletal maturity was greater than dental maturity
suggestive of females and in one case the dental age corresponded to the skeletal age
indicative of a male but in most individuals no estimate of the sex could be made.

Table 25. Age and Sex of Subadults

age pelvis
3/SM1 8-9y
12y F
3/SM5 Newborn ?
4/SM1 ?
5SM1 5y ?
16/SM2 1.5y ?
18/SM2 12-15y <13-15y M
22/SM6 2-3y ?
27/SM2 6y ?
28/SM4 <6y ?
30/SM2 4y ?
33/SM2 9-10y >13y F
491/SM1 <15y ?

Ubelaker 1994, Fig.24.
Ubelaker 1994, Fig. 20.

An attempt was made to ascertain the sex of the subadult remains which were recovered
but, as expected these results confirmed the difficulty in trying to allocate the sex of
subadults with the three results which were obtained not being regarded as more than

Summary of results

There were a total of 60 individuals excavated from the burial ground at Samtavro. This
included 12 subadults and 48 adults (Table 26).
There were 44 adults (92 per cent) in whom the sex could be assessed by the methods
detailed above. These included 22 females and 22 males. There still remained 5 adults in
which the sex was not able to be estimated as the remains were too fragmented and
incomplete to obtain useful criteria. The details of these cases are discussed below.
Eleven individuals had both cranial and pelvic sex determinants present and in nine of
these (82 per cent) the sex allocation derived from each of these was the same. Thirty-six
adults (73 per cent) had pelvic and/or cranial elements recovered. It would be expected
that the results obtained from the pelvic and cranial criteria would be more reliable not
only because of their more obvious sexual dimorphism but they are also not dependent on
having statistically significant numbers in the sample and are not population specific to
the same degree as post-cranial elements.

The two cases in which the cranial and pelvic results were inconsistent (specimens Tomb
2 /SM2 and Tomb 6 /SM1) had both been allocated as male on the pelvic criteria but
female from the cranial criteria. It appeared that they were both young adult males, aged
about 21 years based on dental eruption sequence. It has been shown that the crania of
young adult males are most commonly misclassified as the morphological features on
which they are classified are based on robusticity and take on an increasing masculine
appearance with age.
A further specimen (Tomb 21/SM1) also had inconsistent

Meindl et al. 1985, p. 83.
results. In this case the bones were commingled with other individuals making the
assignment of skeletal material difficult which may have led to an inaccurate allocation.

Overall, in eighteen specimens (out of 34) in which there were multiple elements able to
be assessed the allocated sex for all of the available skeletal elements were in complete
agreement. Of the twentynine adult specimens in which there were both pelvic and/or
cranial elements present together with other post-cranial material, the allocated sex
diagnosed by pelvic and/or cranial criteria corresponded to that diagnosed by post-cranial
criteria in twentyfive instances and in only four was there a discrepancy.

There were five individuals with indeterminate sex. Three of these (Tomb 1/SM5,
Tomb1/ SM9 and Tomb 1/SM11) had only scanty fragmented remains recovered, which
appeared to be small and probably subadults with no features present to indicate the sex.
The allocation from tomb1 was additionally complicated by the large amount of
commingled skeletal material. The remains of Tomb 5/SM3 consisted of parts of the left
mandible and maxilla and some loose teeth. The dental attrition indicated an age of
approximately 35 years and the robusticity of the mental eminence suggested a male but
this was not definite. The remaining specimen (Tomb 25 /SM1) had only feet bones
present from which the sex could not be estimated.

Table 26. Final Sex Allocation.

Allocation Final Sex

pelvic cranial
glenoid humerus femur tibia
1/SM1 M M M indet M
1/SM2 F F
1/SM3 M M
1/SM4 F F
1/SM5 Indet
1/SM6 M M M
1/SM7 F M M M M
1/SM8 F F F M F
1/SM9 indet Indet
1/SM11 Indet Indet
2/SM1 F F F
2/SM2 M F F M M M
3/SM1 Subad F
3/SM2 M M M
3/SM3 F M M
3/SM4 M M M M
3/SM5 Subad ?
4/SM1 Subad ?
5/SM1 Subad ?
5/SM2 F M M
5/SM3 indet Indet
6/SM1 M F M F F F F
7/SM1 F F M F F F F
16/SM1 F F Indet F F F F
16/SM2 Subad ?
18/SM1 F F F F F

18/SM2 M F Subad M
19/SM1 F F F F F F F
21/SM1 F M M M
21/SM2 F F F F
21/SM3 Indet F F
22/SM1 M M M F M M
22/SM2 M M M*
22/SM3 F indet F F
22/SM4 F F F
22/SM5 M F M
22/SM6 Subad ?
22/SM7 F F
23/SM1 M M
23/SM2 M M M M M
23/SM3 M M M
24/SM1 M M
25/SM1 Indet
27/SM1 M F F F
27/SM2 Subad ?
27/SM3 M M M M M M
28/SM1 M M M F M M
28/SM2 F F F
28/SM3 M M M M M M
28/SM4 Indet Subadult
29/SM1 F F
30/SM1 F F F F
30/SM2 Subad ?
32/SM1 F F F F F
33/SM1 M M M M
33/SM2 Subad F
34/SM1 F F F F Indet** F
491/SM1 Subad ?
498/SM1 F F M F
498/SM2 F F F

Distribution of Sexes in Tombs

The allocation of sex has enabled the distribution of the sexes within the tombs to be
analysed (Table 27). There were ten tombs with only a single skeleton present, of these
four were female, two were male, two were subadults and two were indeterminate. Six
tombs contained two individuals; half of these had one female and one subadult present.
The remaining tombs contained multiple skeletal individuals with no discernible pattern
of sex distribution present.
Table 27. Analysis of Individual Tombs
No. Individuals Adults male female Indet. subadults sex Indet
1 10 6 4 2 4
2 2 2 1 1
3 5 3 3 0 2 F 1
4 1 1 1
5 3 2 2 1 1
6 1 1 1
7 1 1 1
16 2 1 1 1 1
18 2 1 1 1 M
19 1 1 1
21 3 3 1 2
22 7 6 2 4 1 1
23 3 3 3
24 1 1 1
25 1 1 1
27 3 2 1 1 1 M
28 4 3 1 1 1
29 1 1
30 2 1 1 1 1
32 1 1 1
33 2 1 1 1 F
34 1 1 1
491 1 0 1 1
498 2 2 2


Key Findings

This research has confirmed that data obtained by the methods discussed can identify the
sex of skeletal individuals from an undocumented population, in which the material
recovered from ancient burials is fragmented, fragile, incomplete and commingled in at
least 80 per cent of specimens. These methods were applied to the human remains
recovered from the burial ground at Samtavro. It was found that the sex was able to be
estimated in 87 per cent of that sample with the acceptable level of reliability of at least
80 per cent based on consistency with results obtained from pelvic criteria and published
results for specific skeletal elements.

The assessment of pelvic and cranial criteria provided the most reliable results for sex
allocation but other post-cranial remains made a significant contribution particularly
where cranial and pelvic elements were not present. The importance of specific skeletal
remains in sex determination depends not only on their sexual dimorphism but also on
their physical structure which determines their possibility of recovery.

Minor skeletal elements are often recovered and may be useful for sex estimation in the
absence of other primary sex determinants. These include components of the elbow as
well as bones of the feet particularly the talus.

In the absence of a documented population, skeletal elements under investigation which
have a significant margin between male and female means and minimal overlap in values
can provide significant results even with a relatively small sample. In these situations the
mean of the whole sample can be used as the section point dividing males and females as
long as the number of each sex present is approximately equal.

The allocation of sex to sub-adults cannot be achieved easily or with any degree of
accuracy by the morphological methods currently available. DNA analysis offers the only
accurate assessment available at present.


This research has demonstrated the methods which may be effectively employed to
analyse ancient skeletal material to enable accurate results for sex determination for a
significant proportion of individuals. This has involved not only criteria from major
skeletal elements but components not commonly employed for sex allocation have been
shown to be able to make a worthwhile contribution. Statistical approaches for allocating
sex to skeletal individuals have been reviewed and modifications to the accepted
statistical criteria have been shown to be feasible to accommodate the nature of the
material under investigation without significantly affecting the accuracy of the end result.

An objective evaluation of components of the elbow has been carried out with material at
the Museum of London which indicated that the olecranon fossa depth and the distance
between the olecranon and coronoid processes show significant dimorphism. When
assessed individually and particularly when combined with the epicondylar breadth of the
humerus and the head of the radius they should prove to be useful criteria for sex

Future Research

Many of the methods for sex determination have been evaluated on only a limited
population range. Further work is necessary to determine their viability
when applied to other populations. This particularly applies to the minor skeletal
elements which can provide significant supporting evidence.

Sex allocation for sub-adults using the morphological methods presently available is
difficult and inaccurate. Future research using larger sub-adult samples are necessary to
clarify this situation and provide additional techniques and more accurate assessments.


This study has investigated the methods can be utilised for the sex determination of
ancient human skeletal material. Following this analysis, these methods, with some
modifications to take into account the nature of the research material, have been applied
to ancient human remains recovered from the burial ground at Samtavro. The sex was
able to be estimated in over 80 per cent of individuals which was considered to provide a
reliable allocation in over 80 per cent of skeletal remains studied.

Appendix One

Data Recording Form: Sex Determination

Burial Number
Specimen Number
Date of Excavation

(Ohio Data Collection Codebook scores) 1 / 2 / 3
ventral arc pos/ med/ neg
sub-pubic concavity c'cav/ flat/ c'vex
ischio-pubic ridge pos/ med/ neg
Sciatic notch wide/ med / narrow
Sub-pubic angle 90+ / 90 / 90-
Pubic length L / R
Ischial length L / R
wide/ med /narrow
True pelvis size shallow/ med / deep
Acetab'm size/direct'n small,anterior/ med / big,lateral
muscle markings smooth/ med / marked
Ischial flaring present/ med/ absent
Sacrum shape long/shallow/med/broad/deep
Pre-auricular sulcus marked/ med / minimal
Auricular surface raised /med / flat

(Ohio Data Collection Codebook scores)
size/shape small,smooth/med/large,rough

(score 15 as per chart)
supraorb. Margins
glabella prominence small / med / large
mastoid process
nuchal crest
mental eminence

gonial angle 125+/ 125 / 125-

glenoid length L / R


bicondylar width L / R
olecranon depth L / R

head diameter: max. L / R
head diameter: min. L / R

coronoidolecranon L / R

head diameter L / R
bicond.width L / R
max. length L / R

max.height L / R
max.thickness L / R

max. length L /R

Allocated Sex

Appendix Two

Study of quantitative techniques for determining sex at the elbow.

Reliable techniques for determining sex are limited when cranial and pelvic elements are
scarce and the available skeletal remains are poorly preserved, fragmentary and
commingled. This was the situation during the 20082009 investigation of the late
Romanearly medieval burial ground excavated at Samtavro, Georgia. The postcranial
material was to a large extent fragmented and incomplete making the assessment of sex
difficult and unreliable. It was noted however that in 84% of fragmented specimens
skeletal components from the elbow including the distal humerus, proximal ulna and
head of radius were recovered in relatively good condition (Table 28). As a result of this
finding a study was performed to test the likely benefit of using these criteria for sex

Table 28. Elbow Criteria from Samtavro specimens

Number of specimens able to be assessed 38
Specimens with assessable elbow criteria 32
Number with some upper limb bones intact 14
Completely fragmented but with assessable criteria 18
No assessable elbow criteria 6

In this poorly preserved skeletal material 50 per cent of specimens were completely
fragmented and not able to be assessed by measurements involving intact bones whereas
84 per cent still had elbow components in a suitable condition to be investigated, each
containing at least two potentially useful criteria.

The elbow joint has skeletal elements which would appear to make them distinctly
suitable for the determination of sex. These, comprising the distal humerus, proximal
ulna and head of radius largely consist of dense compact bone so are particularly durable
and often recovered from ancient skeletal assemblages where either due to the age of the
material or the nature of the environment, many other skeletal elements do not survive.
In general, measurements associated with joints consistently demonstrate the greatest
sexual dimorphism which is attributed to the differences in functional and occupational
The elbow also has the specific features associated with the larger carrying
angle in females which would provide other opportunities for detecting discriminating

Some of these components of the elbow have been further investigated for this study to
determine their applicability to the sex determination of ancient remains. The
morphological features of the distal humerus were assessed by quantitative methods
rather than the qualitative methods used by Rogers to determine if this provided more
accurate and reproducible techniques for sex allocation as the visual techniques were not
found to be as accurate when applied to historic collections.
They were also found to
have a significant inter-observer error when assessed by an inexperienced observer.

The proximal ulna was also studied to assess whether this was of value to estimate sex in
situations where the head of the ulna was the only surviving portion of that bone (in
which case the technique used by Purkait which requires an intact ulna is not feasible).
The head of the radius, which had been investigated previously by Berritbeitia
with a
modern sample, was reassessed with historic specimens from the database of the Museum
of London. The focus of this research was to determine whether a quantitative analysis
of those components of the elbow that are often recovered from ancient burials could
provide a reliable estimation of sex.


Skeletal material from the Chelsea Old Church population at the Museum of London was
examined. The study involved forty-three randomly selected skeletal individuals from

Iscan et al. 1998, p. 26, see also Albanese et al. 2005, p. 148.
Rogers 2006, p. 232.
Rogers 2006, p. 231.
Berrizbeitia 1989, pp.12061213.
the period 1700 to 1850 on whom the sex had been accurately documented from coffin
plates. Both left and right sides were measured. Elements from the left side were used
with the right side being substituted when the left was not available. Not all individuals
had complete elbow joint elements so specimen numbers for the individual skeletal
features differed. In each analysis the proviso was that each sex had approximately
equal representation.


Quantitative means were devised to study some aspects of the distal humerus previously
assessed qualitatively by Rogers
and adapted the method of Purkait and Chandra
measure features of the proximal ulna. The features of the distal humerus studied were
the depth of the olecranon fossa, the thickness of the bone in the base of the olecranon
fossa, the angulation of the medial epicondyle and the epicondylar breadth.

The depth of the olecranon fossa was assessed using a contour gauge situated
longitudinally over the olecranon fossa, the wires were depressed into the fossa and the
deepest wire measured with digital calipers (Fig.26).

The bone thickness in the base of the olecranon fossa was determined using spreading
calipers. A more accurate measurement could have been taken using a needle
micrometer but in trialing this method it was considered too likely to cause damage to
fragile bone. If the fossa was found to be perforated or translucent when held up to light
this was recorded and assumed to be less than 1mm in thickness.

The angulation of the medial epicondyle was determined by measuring the angle between
the flat surface of the trochlear and the anterior surface of the epicondyle (Fig. 27).
Because of the curvature of the border the angle was measured as the flatter, medial

Rogers 1999, pp. 5760; 2006, pp. 227234; 2009, pp. 143148.

Purkait and Chandra 2004, pp. 924927.
portion. Two hinged blades were adjusted visually to correspond to the size of the angle
and then measured with a protractor.
The epicondylar breadth was measured as indicated in Bass.

Fig. 26. Measuring Olecranon fossa depth

Bass 1987, p.158.
Fig. 27. Angulation of medial epicondyle of humerus

Angle of medial epicondyle

Proximal Ulna

OlecranonCoronoid angle

The angle between the posterior surface of the head of the ulna and the line joining the
tips of the coronoid and olecranon processes was measured using a hinged blade with one
arm held against the posterior surface of the head of the ulna and the other in contact with
the tips of the olecranon and coronoid processes as indicated in Fig.28.

Olecranon-Coronoid Distance

The distance between the tips of the coronoid process and the olecranon over the mid-
point of the trochlear notch was measured using a vernier caliper (A-B Fig.28).


Fig. 28. OlecranonCoronoid Angle

Olecranoncoronoid angle

Proximal radius

The maximal diameter of the head of the radius was obtained from the database of the
Museum of London for the same individuals from whom the skeletal elements for the
other criteria had been assessed for this study.

Statistical analysis

For each trait the mean, range and standard deviation was calculated in both sexes.
Students t-tests were used to study the statistical significance of the sex differences. The
sectioning point separating males and females was determined by calculating the mean

Adapted from Purkait and Chandra 2004, Fig. 2.
for the whole sample, as in Albanese et al. (2005). This was used to determine the
number of specimens that could be accurately allocated to each sex. When a value
corresponded exactly with the section point the sex for that criterion was regarded as


The tables below present the simple descriptive statistics for the data obtained from the
measurements of the distal humerus, proximal ulna and radial head.
There was a significant difference in the depth of the olecranon fossa between males and
females with the mean of males being more than 1.5mm larger; t (39)=5.5, p=0.00 (Table
29). The thickness of the base of the olecranon fossa showed a wide range for both sexes
and not suitable for sex allocation (Table 30). Similarly, the angulation of the medial
epicondyle had a large range of values for males and females with a large overlap so this
method did not provide good sex allocation (Table 31). The epicondylar breadth was
significantly dimorphic producing an overall accuracy for sex determination of 90 per
cent and statistically significant difference between the sexes; t (39)=9.01, p=0.00 (Table
32). The distance between the olecranon and coronoid processes of the ulna provided 84
per cent accuracy in sex allocation; t (41)=5-52, p=0.00 (Table 33). The angle between
the tips of the coronoid and olecranon processes and the proximal shaft of ulna, on the
other hand, did not differ between the sexes, so it was not possible to allocate sex using
this criterion (Table 34). The maximum diameter of the radial head was a reliable sex
determinant with correct allocation in 91 per cent of specimens; t (30)=7.28, p=0.00
(Table 35). The depth of the olecranon fossa, epicondylar breadth, distance between the
olecranon and coronoid processes and radial head diameter all achieved a satisfactory
result of over 80 per cent correct allocation. When all these reliable features of the elbow
joint were combined the sample size was reduced to 30 individuals and correct sex
allocation based on a consensus of three out of four criteria correct allocation was
increased to 93 per cent, with only two specimens left with undeterminable sex (Table

Distal humerus

Table 29. Depth of olecranon fossa
Mean 8.58 mm 6.79mm 7.66 mm

Table 30. Thickness of base of Olecranon fossa
Male Female


Number 20 22 42
Range <14 mm <14mm <14 mm
Mean 1.5 mm 1.5 mm 1.5mm
Perforated or
Translucent 5 (15%) 7 (32%) 12 (29%)

Male Female Combined
Number 20 21 41
Range 7-11 mm 5.0-8.5 mm 5-11 mm
Correct 17 (85%) 18(86%) 35 (85%)
Table 31. Angle of medial epicondyle
Male Female Combined
Number 19 22 41
Range in degrees 107-147 113-143 107 147
Mean 123 126 125
Correct 8(42%) 10(45%) 18(44%)

Table 32. Epicondylar breadth of humerus
Male Female Combined
Number 19 22 41
Range 55 70 mm 48 58 mm 48 70 mm
Mean 63 mm 53 mm 57.3 mm
Correct 16 (84%) 21 (95%) 37 (90%)

Proximal Ulna

Table 33. Olecranon coronoid process distance
Male Female Combined
Number 21 22 43
Range 22 31 mm 18 29 mm 18 31 mm
Mean 26.2 22.3 24.2
Correct 16 (76%) 20 (91%) 36 (84%)


Table 34. Angle of proximal ulna
Male Female Combined
Number 21 22 43
Range 20 36 mm 19 32 mm 20 36 mm
Mean 27 mm 26 mm 27 mm
Correct 8 (38%) 10 (45%) 18 (42%)
Indeterminate 1 (0.05%) 2 (0.09%) 3 (0.07%)

Table 35. Maximum diameter of head of radius
Male Female Combined
Number 15 17 32
Range 21.1 27.6 mm 18.6 23 mm 18.6 27.6 mm
Mean 24 20.2 21.2
Correct 14 (93%) 15 (88%) 29 (91%)

Table 36. Combined results
Feature Number Correct Percent
Olecranon depth 30 26 87
Epicondylar breadth 30 29 97
30 26 87
Diameter of head of radius 30 27 90
Combined 30 28 93


Five new quantitative techniques were trialed for estimating sex from the elbow joint.
Two of these, depth of olecranon fossa and distance between coronoid and olecranon
processes achieved good sex discrimination. Values for the thickness at the base of the
olecranon fossa had a large overlap between sexes, eliminating its use for sex allocation,
but it is notable that perforation or translucency of the olecranon fossa was more common
in females. It has been noted previously that the olecranon fossa was more likely to be
perforated in females.
Similarly, the angulation of the medial epicondyle was not found
to be of value in this study but Rogers visual assessment of the posterior surface of the
medial epicondyle indicated significant sexual dimorphism.

Purkait and Chandra
demonstrated a significant degree of sexual dimorphism in the
olecranoncoronoid angle when using the shaft of a complete ulna as a baseline. In this
study only the proximal ulna, which is more likely to be recovered in an archaeological
context, was used, with the posterior surface of the of the proximal ulna used as the base-
line. This did not demonstrate any significant sexual dimorphism but the distance
between the olecranon and coronoid processes did show a considerable difference,
resulting in a useful criterion for sex determination. Assessment of the head of the radius
and epicondylar breadth proved to be useful criteria for sex allocation in these historic
specimens. This has been shown previously ( Berrizbeitia,
Iscan et al.,

Steyn and Iscan,
). When these were added to the two reliable

Godycki 1957, pp. 405410.
Rogers 2009, pp. 143148
Purkait and Chandra 2004, pp. 924927
Berrizbeitia 1989, pp.12061213
France 1997, pp. 170171.
Iscan et al. 1998, p. 24.
Steyn and Iscan 1999, p. 81.
Mall 2001, p. 27.
Frutos 2004, p. 156

criteria quantitatively derived in this study, it was possible to provide a sex allocation in
93 per cent of cases.


In this study fragments of the elbow, which commonly survive in ancient burials, have
been shown to be useful to complement other methods of sex determination. The depth
of the olecranon fossa and the epicondylar breadth of the humerus combined with the
olecranon and coronoid processes of the ulna and the maximum diameter of the radial
head give an accurate assessment of sex. These criteria are worthy of assessment in other
populations and should prove useful adjuncts for sex allocation of human skeletal
remains recovered from ancient sites such as that at Samtavro in Georgia.


Appendix Three

A study to assess the morphological features of the femur for sex allocation

A preliminary assessment was made for the current study of several morphological
features of the femur to assess their value in sex allocation. Specimens were randomly
selected from the osteology collection at the Museum of London for this investigation.
The features examined included the angle of the neck of femur, the degree of torsion of
the head of femur and the bicondylar angle.

Angle of neck of femur
This was measured by calculating the angle between the lower margin of the neck of
femur and the shaft. The results are shown in Table 37.

Table 37. Measurements of angle of neck of femur

Male Female Combined
Numbers 16 12 28
Range (degrees) 121 152 143 -156 121 156
Mean 141 147 144 (mid-point of means)
Correct Allocation 10 (63%) 8 (80%) 18 (70%)
Indeterminate 0 2 2

In this case because of the disparity between the numbers of males and females the mean
of the whole sample is not an appropriate section point, the mid-point between the male
and female means is preferable. The female allocation was good (80 per cent) but
because of the wide overlap between male and female values the overall accuracy was
only 70 per cent.

Degree of Torsion

The degree of torsion of the femoral neck was assessed by calculating the vertical
difference between the femoral head and the coronoid tubercle (see Fig.22) and the
distance between these points to then obtain the result for the angle (Table 38).

Table 38. Measurements of degrees of torsion of femoral neck

Male Female Combined
Numbers 12 9 21
Range (degrees) 66 85 67 81 66 - 85
Mean 76.5 75 75.75

The results would indicate that in this sample study there is no significant difference
between the means for males and females for this criterion questioning its utility.

The Bicondylar angle

The bicondylar angle is assessed by calculating the angle of the shaft from the vertical
when both condyles are in contact with the base (see Fig. 21.)

Table 39. Measurements of the bicondylar angle

Males Females Combined
Numbers 13 9 22
Range (degrees) 97 104 97 107 97 - 107
Mean 101 102 101.5

These results indicate that there is no appreciable difference between the means for these
values indicating that again in this study sample the bicondylar angle is not useful for sex
discrimination (Table 20).

The conclusion is that for these criteria of the femur there is no appreciable sexual
dimorphism in the population studied suggesting that a more comprehensive study to
assess their value for sex determination would probably not be worthwhile. The method
proposed by Albanese for sex determination utilising the proximal femur would appear to
be preferable (see above).

Appendix Four

Size of Sample Required for Sex Allocation

The numbers required for a level of correct sex allocation of at least 80 per cent was
tested against a database of material of documented sex from the Museum of London.
The femoral bicondylar length, maximum head diameter and mid-shaft circumference
from two populations, Chelsea Old Church (1700!850) and Roman period were assessed
using numbers somewhat less than the forty specimens which are regarded as adequate
for sex allocation (see above) but may be more likely to be obtainable from an
archaeological site. Only specimens in which the sex had definitely been confirmed
were used in this study. The findings are presented in the form of stem and leaf graphs
and the values corresponding to females are shown in bold print. The section point
dividing males and females was calculated as the mean of the whole sample and is
indicated below by the bold lines (Figs. 2931).

Chelsea Old Church

It can be seen that 20 out of 20 values for head diameter were consistent with the
documented sex (all the male values are above the section point, the bold line with the
females, in bold print and underlined, below). The mid-shaft circumference
corresponded in 17 out of 20 (85 per cent) and the bicondylar diameter in 19 out of 20
(95per cent) (Fig.29)


Fig. 29. Chelsea Old Church 17001850
Head diameter Mid-shaft diameter Bicondylar length

98 0
96 0
94 0
90 0 0
87 0 0 0
86 0
83 0
82 0 0
81 0 0
80 0 0
79 0
78 0
77 0
73 0

49 0
47 3 2
46 5 8
45 0
44 4 5 4
43 4 0
42 9 1 2
41 2 9 0
40 5
39 2 6
52 0.2
50 0.3
49 0.2 0.7
48 0
47 0.5 0
45 0
42 0 0.9 0.6 0.6 0
41 0.5 0
40 02 0.1 0
39 0.4
38 0.8

Roman period

There were only a limited number of specimens from the Roman period with the sex
confirmed. The maximum femoral head diameter was the only variable which was
available in any significant number (15). Sex allocation using this variable was correct in
13 cases (87 per cent) (Fig. 30).

Fig. 30. Maximum femoral head diameter (Roman period).
53 0.2
52 0.6
51 0.2
48 0.2
47 0.4
46 0.9 0
45 0.2 0.6
44 0.6
43 0.7
42 0 0
41 0.8 0.5

These figures demonstrate that in spite of the relatively small numbers of specimens
present in each sample and the uneven numbers of males and females present, accuracy
for sex allocation of at least 80 per cent can be obtained when the traits being assessed
have a significant degree of sexual dimorphism. An accuracy of at least 80 per cent was
considered to be the acceptable level of precision by Williams and Rogers.

Williams and Rogers 2006, p. 729.


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