Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Dawnie W. Steadman

Committee Members

Amy Z. Mundorff, Janna Morgan, Bridget F. B. Algee-Hewitt


Reliable age-at-death estimation from the adult skeleton is of fundamental importance in forensic anthropology, as it contributes to the biological profile estimations in a medicolegal death investigation. However, reliable estimates are challenging because many traditional aging methods are dependent upon a set of population-specific criteria derived from individuals of European and African descent. Potential differences in the aging patterns of diverse populations may hinder our efforts to produce useful age-at-death estimates in underrepresented groups. In response to these concerns, this study explores the utility of currently available aging techniques, and explores the need, if any, for population-specific aging methods among groups from Latin America.The current study obtained data from two skeletal collections representing modern individuals of Mexican and Puerto Rican origin. Five newly developed computational-shape based techniques utilizing 3D laser scans of the pubic symphysis and one traditional bone-to-phase technique were examined. A validation test of all computational and traditional methods was implemented, and new population-specific equations using the computational algorithms were generated and tested against a Spanish sample. Estimated mean ages from the traditional and computational techniques were compared in order to offer practical recommendations for age estimation for cases of Latin American identity and, in particular, cases presumed to be of Mexican or Puerto Rican ancestry.Results from this study suggest that traditional and computational aging techniques applied to the pubic symphysis perform the best with individuals in the 35-45 age group, in comparison to other age groups. Levels of bias and inaccuracy increase as chronological age increases, with overestimation of individuals under 35 years of age and underestimation of individuals over 40 years of age. New regression models provided comparable error rates to, and in several occasions, outperformed the original computational models developed on White American males. Ultimately, however, age estimates did not significantly improve. This study has shown that population specific models do not necessarily improve age estimates in samples from Latin America. Results do suggest that computational methods can ultimately outperform the Suchey Brooks method and provide improvement in objectivity when estimating age-at-death in samples originating from Latin America.

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