Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Anthropology (Forensic Anthropology Option)

Department or School/College

Department of Anthropology

Committee Chair

Ashley H. McKeown

Commitee Members

Christiane von Reichert, Randall Skelton


age at death, age estimation, Berg, forensic anthropology, Gilbert-McKern, Hanihara-Suzuki, McKern-Stewart, pubic age, Pubic symphysis, skeletal age, Suchey-Brooks, Todd


University of Montana


This study examined six methods of skeletal age-at-death estimation from the pubic symphysis in order to determine the significance of sex as a contributing source of error to the inaccuracy of each method. These six methods included Todd (1920), McKern-Stewart (1957), Gilbert-McKern (1973), Hanihara-Suzuki (1978), Suchey-Brooks female-specific (Brooks and Suchey 1990), Suchey-Brooks male-specific (Brooks and Suchey 1990), and the Berg female-specific Suchey-Brooks 7th phase addition (2008). Three hundred and ninety-six individuals were randomly selected from the William M. Bass (WMB) Donated Skeletal Collection housed at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and were evaluated without knowledge of actual age for age-at-death in six observations, one for each method. These data were combined, re-associated with data on the age and sex of each individual, and both bias and inaccuracy were calculated for each method. Independent samples t-tests for equality of means were used to determine the significance of the difference between mean bias and inaccuracy across male and female sex categories. The results of this study suggest that average inaccuracy was not significantly different between males and females for any of the tested methods. This is interesting considering the extensive body of research that has suggested that the range of variation for the female pubic symphysis is greater than for males for reasons such as dimorphic pelvic morphology, parturition (childbirth), and greater rates of osteoporosis. The Berg 7th phase addition to the Suchey-Brooks method did not perform as well as initial tests suggested, and based on the results of this study, this addition should not be considered preferable to the original six-phase Suchey-Brooks female-specific method. Overall, the two Suchey-Brooks methods performed best in terms of coverage, though the results of this study suggest that male- and female-specific methods may not significantly improve accuracy. As aging techniques based on isolated American samples are increasingly globally applied, research on the specific nature of the weaknesses of each method becomes critical. It is hoped that the results of this study will help to clarify the contribution of sex as a proposed source of error in addition to providing direction for further research.



© Copyright 2009 Ellery Kate Lungmus