Age assessment of the Spitalfields cemetery population by rib phase analysis

Department of Anthropology, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton Florida 33431
American Journal of Human Biology (Impact Factor: 2.34). 12/1994; 7(4):465 - 471. DOI: 10.1002/ajhb.1310070408

ABSTRACT Accurate paleodemographic reconstruction depends in large part on the ability to estimate age at death from the skeleton. Thus, it is important to evaluate the reliability of standards utilized for this assessment. The rib phase technique has proven to be one of the most consistently reliable means of determining age in modern human adults. A recent study also demonstrated that this method can be applied to Neandertals because they exhibit the same pattern of age-related change. However, the efficacy of the rib phases in aging archaeological populations of anatomically modern humans has not been systematically examined. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to determine if ribs from the 16th to 18th century Spitalfields cemetery population (with church records of age at death) manifest a morphological aging pattern similar to that found in the recent specimens upon which the rib phase standards are based. Age was assessed on a sample of 87 individuals using only the sternal ends of the ribs without access to the rest of the skeleton or records of age and sex. Results indicated that Spitalfields ribs exhibit essentially the same aging patterns found in the ribs of modern Whites. Overall, the demographic profile generated from the ribs produced a good approximation of this sample in both range and distribution. Error was in the direction of underaging, and results for males were better than for females. The present findings indicate that the rib can be considered a reliable site for age estimation in archaeological populations. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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