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Skip to 0 minutes and 5 secondsI'll start off with probably the overall look of the skull. Sure. So apparently the female ones tend to have more of a gracile shape overall of the skull, and they're more like rounded, and they tend to be lighter. Right. By feeling - How's that feel? - the weight, I can't tell the difference that much. Yeah. So I guess we'll have to find the other features. Yeah. Discuss some more characteristics. So the female ones tend to have a rounder forehead, whereas the male one tends to have a quite angled and sloped forehead. And by feeling it, I can definitely feel that this one has a more rounded forehead than this one. What we can look at next is the eye sockets.

Skip to 1 minute and 0 secondsAnd usually you can tell that with a male skull the eye sockets are a lot more square than the female, which is a little bit more circular. But having a good look at both of them, they're very similar, so I'd be tempted to look at instead is actually having a feel of the eye margins. So if you feel the eye margins, the male eye margins are usually a lot more blunt and a lot more smooth than the female, which are quite sharp. Feeling both, this in particular is very sharp. Yeah. What's also pretty obvious is the nasal bone. So looking at both, you can see the nasal bone is actually protruding quite a lot more in this skull. Yeah, absolutely.

Skip to 1 minute and 39 secondsAnd that's a pretty definitive male feature, is how far the nasal bone protrudes. One of the next key characteristics to look at would be the shape and size of the jaw. Yeah. So just having a look at these two skulls from a distance, you can see that this skull has a bit of a point to it on this aspect of the jaw. And that's generally a more female characteristic. Again, on the male, there's not really as much of a point. Judging by our observations so far, I'd say this one is likely to be male, but we still need to finalise some observations. Yeah. It's very obviously more prominent - Yeah. Yeah. - on this skull though. Absolutely, yeah.

Skip to 2 minutes and 20 secondsEspecially if you feel it. You can see the point. Yeah. I'd say also we'd need to look at the angle of the jaw as well. So on the female it's likely to be more rounded. So if we were to say, for now, that if this one was male and this one was female, that would reinforce our general observations so far, because you can see that it's slightly more rounded. And just as a concluding aspect, there's more prominent muscular attachments on this jaw as well, which would be a bit more definitive of a male skull.

Skip to 2 minutes and 58 secondsFinally then, there's one more feature I think that would be useful to note, which would be the occipital protuberance, because generally it's more prominent on males. So if we were to say, as a hypothesis, that this one was male, we'd expect the occipital protuberance to be more prominent. So if we do check this out, you can see it's a very prominent - Whereas this one is really, really smooth. Yeah. Very smooth, there. You can barely see any kind of protuberance with that. Well, it's barely there on that skull - Absolutely. - compared to the other one. So generally we'd say then, as a conclusion, would you guys agree that this one might be male and this one might be female?

Skip to 3 minutes and 36 secondsYeah. Yep. This one's - I think that's pretty solid. - highly likely to be a female. Yeah.

Our demonstrators investigate: Identifying the sex of a skull

Now that we know how to estimate the sex of the skull, let’s see those techniques in action.

As part of their Biomedical Science undergraduate degree, students here at Sheffield undertake a Forensic Anatomy module where they are given a box of ‘anatomical evidence’ relating to an unidentified person. This evidence includes a skull, long bones, dental information and a post mortem report.

Students apply forensic techniques to this evidence, including a facial reconstruction, to determine the identity and cause of death.

One of the first tasks they are faced with is to analyse the bones in order to determine age, sex, ethnicity and pathology.

Here, we’ll watch three recent graduates from the course undertake an initial investigation of two skulls as they try to determine their sex.

As you watch the video, pay close attention to the characteristics that distinguish the male and female skulls - in the next step, we’ll ask you to try out these techniques for yourself.

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This video is from the free online course:

Forensic Facial Reconstruction: Finding Mr. X

The University of Sheffield