Publication Date

5-2016

Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)

3-11-2016

Type of Culminating Activity

Thesis - Boise State University Access Only

Degree Title

Master of Arts in Anthropology

Department

Anthropology

Major Advisor

Samantha Blatt, Ph.D.

Advisor

Kristin Snopkowski, Ph.D.

Advisor

Mark Plew, Ph.D.

Abstract

Forensic anthropologists and bioarchaeologists routinely attempt to generate biological profiles of individuals through skeletal remains. Along with sex and ancestry, age-at-death estimation provides valuable information about the unidentified individual. Accuracy in currently established methods declines sharply after the age of forty. This has the major implication of making it appear as if archaeological populations had shorter lifespans than contemporary humans and has rendered the elderly “invisible” in the archaeological record.

The degenerative changes in bone from aging are currently used to determine age-at-death in adults. However, once a person enters middle age, genetics, lifestyle, health, nutrition, and occupation can make bones look significantly older or younger than they actually are. As a result, notable bioarchaeologist, Jane Buikstra, has petitioned the anthropological community to develop better aging methods for mature skeletons.

A recently developed age-at-death estimation method based on degeneration of the sternal end of the clavicle has shown a 96.4% accuracy rate in determining age-at-death in European remains of individuals over the age of forty. The purpose of this thesis was to perfom a validation study of this clavicular method, developed by anthropologist Ceri Falys (Falys and Prangle, 2014) on a population of African American individuals (n=229) from the Hamann-Todd skeletal reference collection located at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Clavicles were scored according to the Falys and Prangle method (2014) and used to generate age-at-death estimates, then statistically compared to known ages from the Hamann-Todd collection. Correlation coefficients were high and the accuracy rate was not significantly different than the accuracy rate of the Falys and Prangle (2014) study. However, the age ranges were too wide to consider this method an improvement over existing well-established methods.

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