Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsIn this section we're going to examine the different methods for recording stature from human skeletal remains. There are a number of different techniques but stature can be a really important method for establishing an individual's identity. We can compare the height that we get from the skeleton with known medical records for individuals, and that will help in terms of establishing their individual identity. The height of an individual can be estimated from their skeletal remains using two approaches. The first is called the anatomical method or the Fully method, which involves measuring every bone that contributes towards height. The other method is called the mathematical method.

Skip to 0 minutes and 48 secondsThis is the one that's most often used in archaeological context, because you can apply it to skeletons that are very incomplete. Here one or two of the major long bones and measured and sex-specific regression equations are used to extrapolate the living height of the person from this measurement (using a regression equation). Here we have a right femur from a female individual. So we measure it with our osteometric board to get the maximum length, and then we place it within our regression equation. This will then give us the height of the individual. The mathematical methods are significantly quicker to use, and allow for stature to be calculated even from quite incomplete skeletons.

Skip to 1 minute and 33 secondsThese methods are based on population averages, though, and therefore don't take into account individual differences in body proportions. So for example, if a person has shorter legs and the longer trunk. Body proportions do vary between populations, and this is an important consideration when using mathematical methods. Although variety of population specific equations have been produced for people in different parts of the world, there are not equations for every single country. So in this section, we've covered the different methods for estimating stature from human skeletal remains. We focused primarily on regression based methods, and these are most commonly used in archaeological populations.

Skip to 2 minutes and 15 secondsIn forensic studies, it might be more useful to use the Fully approach, the anatomical method, whereby you're measuring all bones that contribute towards an individual's height. This is more time consuming, and it does depend on all of those bones being present, but it will provide you with a more accurate stature. In the next section we're going to discuss recording pathological lesions from human skeletal remains. So things like trauma, evidence for infectious disease, joint disease, and so on.

Estimating Stature

The height of an individual can be estimated from their skeletal remains using two approaches. The first is called the “anatomical method”, which involves measuring the height of every skeletal element that contributes to an individual’s stature in life. Although extremely time-consuming and dependent on a complete skeleton being present, this approach is the most accurate and takes into consideration different body proportions (e.g. a long trunk and short legs). This method provides a skeletal height, not the living height, and a correction has to be applied to take account of the missing soft tissues.

The alternative approach to calculating height, and the one most commonly used, referred to as the “mathematical method”. Here, one or two of the major long bones are measured and sex-specific regression equations are used to extrapolate the living height of the person (see the table below for a method commonly used).

The mathematical methods are significantly quicker to use and allow for stature to be calculated even from incomplete skeletons. These methods are based on population averages, and therefore do not take into account individual differences. Body proportions do vary between populations and this is an important consideration when using mathematical methods. Although a variety of population-specific equations have been produced for people in different parts of the world, these are far from exhaustive.

List of stature formulae for the different long bones Stature calculations for white males (from Trotter 1970)

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Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology

Durham University