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Adult Age Estimated From New Skeletal Traits and Enhanced Computer-Based Transition Analysis

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2019
17 pages

This is the Final Summary Report on a project that addressed the persistent problem of adult skeletal age estimation by starting with new skeletal age indicators, moving to a refinement of analytical procedures, and ending with a user-friendly computer program.


For decades, estimating methods for aging adult human skeletons have yielded inaccurate, imprecise, and biased estimates. It is also impossible to estimate the ages of older people (ca. 50+ years). In addition to developing a procedure for estimating age throughout adulthood, the current project had the broader goal of reorienting the entire process of skeletal age estimation, starting with the kind of traits used and extending through how they are combined to produce ages tailored to the characteristics of individual skeletons. Data were obtained from five well-documented known-age skeletal collections to obtain a large and diverse sample. To date, 1,774 skeletons have been examined, 1,027 of males and 747 of females. The objective was to develop a procedure with wide applicability, regardless of the forensic context. This project report describes the analytical procedures used to yield age estimates individually tailored to specific skeletons. A computer program has been developed to expedite data entry and analysis. It will be available in the spring of 2020. It will continue to be developed based on feedback from users and advances in analytical methods. Software for data entry and analysis, as well as extensive documentation, will be freely available to forensic practitioners. The report advises that the most important project outcome is an anticipated shift from observing a few parts of the skeleton for age estimation to a wider array of bony features. 3 figures, 1 table, 7 references, and a listing of project publications and presentations

Date Published: July 1, 2019