Volume 44, Issue 3 (May 1999)
Calculation of Percent Shrinkage in Human Fetal Diaphyseal Lengths from Fresh Bone to Carbonized and Calcined Bone Using Petersohn and Köhler's Data
Calculation of age from fetal and newborn remains may be problematic, and when these remains are altered by maceration, decomposition or burning, age may be more difficult to discern. When soft tissue indicators are transformed, then two techniques exist for accurate age determination; dental development, which may prove difficult given the degree of tissue alteration; and appearance, size and fusion of ossification centers, including diaphyseal length, which may yield inaccurate ages if shrinkage is not accounted for. This study is undertaken to facilitate age calculation by systematically re-evaluating diaphyseal shrinkage and determine shrinkage rates from wet to carbonized states and wet to calcined states using Petersohn and Köhler's data, originally published in German and then published in Fazekas and Kósa (1978:362–369). Average shrinkage, standard deviation, minimum and maximum values are calculated for each diaphysis and then for all diaphyses between 4–10 lunar months (LM) and for newborns. Associated values for carbonized diaphyses are: 4 LM-32.50% ± 12.12%; 5 LM-14.04% ± 4.44%; 6 LM-6.78% ± 1.06%; 7 LM-4.18% ± 0.31%; 8 LM-3.47% ± 0.42%; 9 LM-3.05% ± 0.18%; 10 LM-2.46% ± 0.67%; and in newborns 2.16% ± 0.29%. Similar values for calcined diaphyses are: 4 LM-40.11% ± 17.51%; 5 LM-18.29% ± 4.42%; 6 LM-9.84% ± 1.27%; 7 LM-9.82% ± 0.51%; 8 LM-9.42% ± 0.72%; 9 LM-9.45% ± 0.33%; 10 LM-8.94% ± 0.37%; and in newborns 8.96% ± 0.49%. These findings suggest that percent shrinkage due to carbonization and calcination is greatest in the earliest age groups, decreasing substantially with advancing age. The rates of shrinkage, however, vary by the burning process utilized and age group studied. These general findings are similar to those of Petersohn and Köhler, yet specific values for percent shrinkage vary greatly from values cited in this analysis. These data provide a means to assess the degree of shrinkage that occurs for each diaphysis for each given age group.