Sex determination from femora in late antique sample from Eastern Adriatic coast (Salona necropolis)

Open access


The determination of sex is one of the first steps in anthropological analysis. When skeletal remains are fragmented, the most useful approach is application of osteometric methods. The methods are population specific, and therefore require development of discriminant functions for each population group.

The aim of this study was to test sexual dimorphism of femoral measurements and to calculate discriminant functions applicable for sex determination on fragmented skeletal remains on the late antique sample from the Eastern Adriatic coast (2nd-6th century AD).

214 randomly chosen skeletons from the excavation site Solin-Smiljanovac were analyzed. Sex and age were assessed using standard anthropological methods, and skeletons were examined for pathologic and traumatic changes. In the next step, we selected 27 female and 48 male skeletons free of peri- or post-mortem changes that could affect measurements Eight standard femoral measurements were taken. Sexual dimorphism was initially compared using independent sample t test, after which discriminant functions were computed.

All femoral measurements showed statistically significant sexual dimorphism (p<0.001). Ten discriminant functions for every part of femur were calculated and obtained classification accuracy of 73.1-91.8%. This study reached relatively high classification, which will improve further analysis of the skeletal remains from the Salona necropolis. Due to similar population structure in the Roman period across the Adriatic coast, the discriminant functions could be applicable for all populations from the same period and area. This study also raised a few methodological questions showing that when creating discriminant functions we should consider not only the accuracy, but also the applicability based on the experience from the anthropology laboratory that considers the state of preservation and frequent pathology.

Albanese J, Eklics G, Tuck A. 2008. A metric method for sex determination using the proximal femur and fragmentary hipbone. J Forensic Sci 53(6):1283-8.

Anderson AS, Loeser RF. 2010. Why is Osteoarthritis an Age-Related Disease? Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol 24(1):15.

Anteric I, Basic Z, Vilovic K, Kolic K, Andjelinovic S. 2014. Which theory for the origin of syphilis is true? J Sex Med 11(12):3112-8.

Aufderheide AC, Rodríguez-Martín C, Langsjoen O. 1998. The Cambridge encyclopedia of human paleopathology. Cambridge University Press.

Bašić Ž et al. 2013. Sex determination in skeletal remains from the medieval Eastern Adriatic coast - discriminant function analysis of humeri. Croat Med J 54(3):272-8.

Black TK, 3rd. 1978. A new method for assessing the sex of fragmentary skeletal remains: femoral shaft circumference. Am J Phys Anthropol 48(2):227-31.

Brooks S, Suchey JM. 1990. Skeletal age determination based on the os pubis: A comparison of the Acsádi-Nemeskéri and Suchey-Brooks methods. Human Evolution 5(3):227-38.

Brothwell D. 1981. Digging up bones : the excavation, treatment and study of human skeletal remains. London: British Museum (Natural History).

Buikstra JE, Ubelaker DH, editors. 1994. Standards for data collection from human skeletal remains. Fayetteville: Arkansas Archeological Survey Research Series No. 44

du Jardin P, Ponsaillé J, Alunni-Perret V, Quatrehomme G. A comparison between neural network and other metric methods to determine sex from the upper femur in a modern French population. Forensic Sci Int 192(1):127.e1-127.e6.

Gibbon V, Paximadis M, Štrkalj G, Ruff P, Penny C. 2009. Novel methods of molecular sex identification from skeletal tissue using the amelogenin gene. Forensic Sci Int Genet 3(2):74-79.

Gibbon VE. 2009. Development of molecular sex determination methods and their application to archaeological material sourced from the Raymond Dart collection of human skeletons [PhD Thesis]. [Faculty of Science, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg].

İşcan MY, Steyn M. 2013. The human skeleton in forensic medicine. Springfield, Illinois,: Charles C Thomas Pub Ltd.

Lovejoy CO, Meindl RS, Pryzbeck TR, Mensforth RP. 1985. Chronological metamorphosis of the auricular surface of the ilium: A new method for the determination of adult skeletal age at death. Am J Phys Anthropol 68(1):15-28.

Mann RW, Jantz RL, Bass WM, Willey PS. 1991. Maxillary suture obliteration: a visual method for estimating skeletal age. J Forensic Sci 36(3):781-91.

Meindl RS, Lovejoy CO. 1985. Ectocranial suture closure: a revised method for the determination of skeletal age at death based on the lateral-anterior sutures. Am J Phys Anthropol 68(1):57-66.

Moore-Jansen PH, Jantz RL, Ousley SD. 1994. Data collection procedures for forensic skeletal material. Knoxville, Tenn.: Forensic Anthropology Center, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Tennessee.

Nagaoka T, Hirata K. 2009. Reliability of metric determination of sex based on longbone circumferences: perspectives from Yuigahama-minami, Japan. Anat Sci Int 84(1-2):7-16.

Ortner DJ. 2003. Identification of pathological conditions in human skeletal remains. Academic Press.

Phenice TW. 1969. A newly developed visual method of sexing the os pubis. Am J Phys Anthrop 30(2):297-301.

Safont S, Malgosa A, Subira ME. 2000. Sex assessment on the basis of long bone circumference. Am J Phys Anthropol 113(3):317-28.

Spradley MK, Jantz RL. 2011. Sex Estimation in Forensic Anthropology: Skull Versus Postcranial Elements. J Forensic Sci 56(2):289-96.

Steyn M, Iscan MY. 1997. Sex determination from the femur and tibia in South African whites. Forensic Sci Int 90(1-2):111-9.

Šlaus M. 1997. Disciminant function sexing of fragmentry and complete femora from medieval sites in continental Croatia. OpArch 21:167-75.

Šlaus M. 2006. Bioarheologija: demografija, zdravlje, traume i prehrana starohrvatskih populacija. Zagreb: Školska knjiga.

Šlaus M, Bedić Ž, Strinović D, Petrovečki V. 2013. Sex determination by discriminant function analysis of the tibia for contemporary Croats. Forensic Sci Int 226(1-3):302.e1-4.

Šlaus M, Strinović D, Skavić J, Petrovečki V. 2003. Discriminant function sexing of fragmentary and complete femora: standards for contemporary Croatia. J Forensic Sci 48(3):509-12.

Šlaus M, Tomičić Ž. 2005. Discriminant function sexing of fragmentary and complete tibiae from medieval Croatian sites. Forensic Sci Int 147(2-3):147-52.

Vance VL, Steyn M, L’Abbe EN. 2011. Nonmetric sex determination from the distal and posterior humerus in black and white South Africans. J Forensic Sci 56(3):710-4.

Vodanović M, Demo Ž, Njemirovskij V, Keros J, Brkić H. 2007. Odontometrics: a useful method for sex determination in an archaeological skeletal population? J Archeol Sci 34(6):905-13.

Vodanović M, Dumančić J, Demo Ž, Mihelić D. 2006. Određivanje spola na temelju diskriminantne analize mandibula iz dva hrvatska arheološka nalazišta. Acta Stomatol Croat 40:263-77.

Walker PL. 2005. Greater sciatic notch morphology: sex, age, and population differences. Am J Phys Anthropol 127(4):385-91.

White TD, Black MT, Folkens PA. 2011. Human osteology. San Diego, Calif.: Academic Press.

Wrobel GD, Danforth ME, Armstrong C. 2002. Estimating sex of Maya skeletons by discriminant function analysis of longbone measurements from the protohistoric Maya site of Tipu, Belize. Anc Mesoam 13(02):255-63.

Anthropological Review

The Journal of Polish Anthropological Society

Journal Information

CiteScore 2017: 0.70

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.282
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.439

Cited By


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 312 312 104
PDF Downloads 197 197 113