Osteology: Estimating Femur Length from the Diameter of the Femoral Shaft

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School of Biological & Earth Sciences

BIEGN3005 Honours Project

March 2010

Student name: Stephen Dempsey

Supervisor name: Professor Alan Turner

Estimating femur length from the diameter of the femoral shaft

Stephen Dempsey
BIEGN300 Honours Project
Person Number: 343106
Submission Date: 5th March 2010


Bone lengths can be used to provide stature estimations in case of unidentified skeletal remains, an important tool in forensic and bioarchaelogical cases. Where the bones are broken or fragmented, regression equations can be used to estimate total bone length from its fragments, which in turn can be used to estimate stature. The aim of this study was to test 2 new measurements of the femoral shaft to see if they could be used as predictors of maximum femoral length. The minimum transverse femoral shaft diameter and the minimum anterior-posterior femoral shaft where measured on a small sample of an archaeological population from Poulton, Cheshire, along with the maximum femur length for each sample. Simple linear regression analysis was performed and the results showed that the minimum transverse femoral shaft diameter correlated significantly in both males (R2=.635, p=0.006) and females (R2=0.88, p=≤0.001) with maximum femur length. The minimum anterior-posterior femoral shaft diameter showed no significant correlation with maximum femur length. Subsequently, regression equations were presented for the significant correlations. Further research is needed to validate the results and to improve the accuracy of the method.

1. Introduction

The role of a forensic anthropologist in forensic and archaeological cases is to establish demographics (population affinity, age, sex and stature), time since death and cause of death from an individual’s remains (Chibba et al, 2006). The use of stature as a biological characteristic of identity can significantly contribute to the identification of unknown skeletal remains. Numerous areas of the skeleton have been used to try and determine an individual’s living height such as the upper limb bones (Rao et al. 1989), lower limb bones (Trotter and Gleeson, 1952), the metatarsals (Cordiero et al, 2009) and the skull (Ryan and Bidmos, 2007). Hauser et al. (2005) provide a good review of the past research in the area of stature estimation. One of the methods used in the estimation of stature is the formulation of regression equations from measurements of various bone lengths. Pearson (1899) was the first to derive regression equations for estimating stature, and since then it has grown to be the method of choice among most anthropologists. Many of the methods used to approximate stature require complete or near complete bones, so consequently few studies have been done on incomplete or fragmentary bones (Bidmos, 2008). Forensic anthropologists are often confronted with fragmented bones and in these cases it is impossible to derive regression equations directly from bone length (Rao et al.1989).Wright and Vasquez (2003) state the problems they faced in Guatemala in which they were often unable to estimate stature from bone length due to the rapid deterioration of bone in the tropical environment. This is only one of many factors that lead to the all too frequent recovery of broken or fragmented remains. Therefore it is beneficial to have equations available for bone length or stature derived from measurements of smaller segments or landmarks on the chosen bone.

The femur is the favoured bone of use among anthropologists in estimating stature, due to its high correlation with height in addition to the fact that it is one of bones most often recovered (Simmons et al. 1990). A number of measurements of the femur have already been reported to have good correlations with femur length. Many of these measurements focus on the proximal and distal ends of the femur such as the upper epicondylar length, epicondylar breath, vertical neck diameter and the...
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