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Age-at-Death Estimation for Modern Populations in Mexico and Puerto Rico through the Use of 3D Laser Scans of the Pubic Symphysis

NCJ Number
Date Published
17 pages
Since the absence of information on the potential differences in the aging patterns of underrepresented populations, especially Latinx, can hinder efforts to produce useful age-at-death estimates, this study examined the utility of currently available aging techniques and whether population-specific aging methods among Latinx groups are needed.
Reliable age-at-death estimates from the adult skeleton are of fundamental importance in forensic anthropology, because it contributes to the identity parameters used in a medicolegal death investigation; however, reliable estimates are difficult because many traditional aging methods depend on a set of population-specific criteria derived from individuals of European and African descent. The current study obtained data from two skeletal collections representing modern individuals of Mexican and Puerto Rican origin. Researchers used five newly developed computational shape-based techniques that involved 3D laser scans of the pubic symphysis and one traditional bone-to-phase technique. 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 subsample. Results suggest that traditional and computational aging techniques applied to the pubic symphysis perform best with individuals within 35-45 years of age. Levels of bias and inaccuracy increase as chronological age increases, with overestimation of individuals younger than 35 years old and underestimation of individuals older than 45 years old. New regression models provided error rates comparable to, and in some cases better than the original computational models developed on White American males, but age estimates did not significantly improve. This study shows that population-specific models do not necessarily improve age estimates in Latinx samples. Results do suggest that computational methods can ultimately outperform the Suchey-Brooks method and provide improved objectivity when estimating age at death in Latinx samples. (publisher abstract modified)
Date Published: January 1, 2018