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Hips don't lie: Researchers find more accurate technique to determine sex of skeletal remains
Date:7/6/2010

Research from North Carolina State University offers a new means of determining the sex of skeletal human remains an advance that may have significant impacts in the wake of disasters, the studying of ancient remains and the criminal justice system.

Historically, forensic scientists have been able to determine the sex of skeletal remains by visually evaluating the size and shape of the pelvis, or os coxa. "This technique is accurate, but is not without its limitations," says Dr. Ann Ross, associate professor of sociology and anthropology at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the research.

"For example," Ross says, "when faced with fragmentary remains of the os coxa, it can be difficult to determine the deceased person's sex based solely on visual inspection. This can be a significant challenge when evaluating remains from disasters such as plane crashes or degraded remains in mass burials whether the burials date from prehistory or 20th century political violence."

But Ross and her colleague Dr. Joan Bytheway have now used three-dimensional imaging technology to effectively quantify the specific characteristics of the os coxa that differentiate males from females. Bytheway is an assistant professor of forensic science at Sam Houston State University.

The researchers found more than 20 anatomical "landmarks" on the os coxa that can be used to determine a body's sex. Finding so many landmarks is important, Ross says, because it means that the sex of a body can be ascertained even if only a small fragment of the pelvis can be found. In other words, even if only 15 percent of the pelvis is recovered, it is likely that at least a few of the landmarks can be found on that fragment.

Here's how it would work: a forensic scientist would use a digitizer to create a 3-D map of the pelvic fragment and measure the relevant anatomical landmarks. The scientist could then determine the sex of the remains by comparing
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Contact: Matt Shipman
matt_shipman@ncsu.edu
919-515-6386
North Carolina State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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