Volume 24, Issue 4 (October 1979)
The Core Technique in the Determination of Age at Death in Skeletons
Determining age at death beyond 50 years in skeletons has posed problems for physical anthropologists, forensic scientists, and archeologists. Morphological aging methods such as pubic symphyseal remodeling [1–5], cranial suture closure [1,2,6,7], and the degree of osteoarthritis  are often inaccurate or not appropriate in aging skeletons of persons older than 50 years. Histological methods of estimating age at death in skeletons [9–13], overcoming many of the subjective criteria associated with morphological aging methods, are receiving increasing attention for their ability to age skeletons accurately from birth to old age. Of the histological methods that use cortical bone samples, Kerley's method  has been shown to be the most accurate. Current histological methods, however, have shortcomings that limit their widespread application by physical anthropologists and forensic scientists. The principal shortcoming is the need for complete cross sections of diaphyseal bone. With Ubelaker's recent finding  that age-related histological changes in bone may be population-specific, the need for a nondestructive technique of bone sample acquisition becomes important. To confirm or reject the findings that populations may vary in their rates of osteon turnover, thereby affecting age estimations obtained by histological methods, it is necessary to acquire bone samples from large skeletal series of known age at death. Access to these skeletons as well as forensically derived skeletons depends on a technique that minimizes the physical damage to a skeleton.