Volume 47, Issue 6 (November 2002)
Variability of the Pattern of Aging on the Human Skeleton: Evidence from Bone Indicators and Implications on Age at Death Estimation
Age at death assessment of adult skeletons is one of the most difficult problems in forensic and physical anthropology. Two fundamental sources of error are described: the complex variability in the process of skeletal aging and methodological bias. Taking into account these limits, we developed a new scoring system for the auricular surface of the ilium and the pubic symphysis. In order to address a large variability, we examine reference samples from Europe, North America, Africa, and Asia. Data were processed using Bayesian prediction in order to classify specimens in age range categories. Results show that combining indicators do not perform better than the auricular surface used as a single indicator. Morphological changes with aging are variable between Asian, African, and European populations, confirming the necessity to use population-specific standards. Bayesian prediction produces reliable classification and is applicable for subjects over 50 years old, a real methodological improvement.