Mandibular morphology as an indicator of human subadult age: geometric morphometric approaches

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Abstract

Methods for skeletal identification have a long history in physical and forensic anthropology. Recent literature demonstrates that new methods are constantly being developed, concurrent with refinements to those already commonly employed. The present study concerns the application of geometric morphometrics to assess the potential of mandibular morphology as a developmental marker for estimating age at death in subadult human skeletal remains. The sample comprises 79 known age and sex subadult individuals of South African Bantu and African American origin; 38 bilateral three-dimensional landmarks were designed and acquired using a portable digitizer. Linear regression was used to predict age using the multivariate descriptors of mandible size and shape based on configurations of three-dimensional landmarks. Our results show that the mandible can be used to predict age in the subadult skeleton with accuracy comparable to standards based on the dentition (standard error rates are between ±1.3 and ±3.0 years). These results closely parallel our previous study using the linear measurement of ramus height, but suggest that geometric morphometrics may be slightly more accurate when adolescents are included in the sample.

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