Predicting stature from bone measurements

1 minute read

Anthropologists have collected data from many populations in the world, showing the relationship between the parts of the skeleton and body size and stature. The long bones are the most important elements for estimating overall stature, because each of them contributes to a fairly large segment of the body’s length.

We can use regression equations to give an estimate of the stature from a single long bone. These estimates are not perfect — sometimes a person is taller than you might guess from his femur, sometimes shorter. Moreover, the relationship of bone length and stature varies among human populations, because of differences in body proportions. But allowing for error, the estimates of stature from long bone lengths are among the most important pieces of information we can gather in the process of identification.

What to do: Here you will examine isolated femora, using regression equations to predict stature of the individual.

  1. Determine the sex of the individual. The femur head diameter is a relatively good indicator of sex. If it is less than 44 mm, the individual is likely to be a female. More than 46 mm, and the individual is likely to be a male. In between these values, you may need more information — either from the rest of the skeleton or from the size and robusticity of the femur itself.
  2. Measure the maximum length of the femur. This measurement is taken using the osteometric board, and represents the maximum distance from any points on the proximal and distal ends of the bone. Take your measurement in centimeters.
  3. Apply the correct regression equation. These are specific to sex and race. The femora at this station come from donated anatomy collections from the early 20th century, and represent people of European ancestry. The male and female regression equations for this population are listed at right.