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Chronological metamorphosis of the auricular surface of the ilium: A new method for the determination of adult skeletal age at death

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A new method for the determination of adult skeletal age at death based upon chronological changes in the auricular surface of the ilium is presented. Formal stages have been constructed following extensive tests and refinements in observations made of such changes. Two completely "blind" tests were conducted to assess the accuracy and bias of the new method. Results show that the system is equally accurate to pubic symphyseal aging (although somewhat more difficult to apply), and also carries the advantages of a higher preservation rate for the auricular surface in archaeological populations and continued age-related change beyond the fifth decade.
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AMERICAN JOURNAL
OF
PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 68:15-28
(1985)
Chronological Metamorphosis
of
the Auricular Surface
of
the
Ilium: A New Method
for
the Determination
of
Adult Skeletal Age
at Death
C. OWEN LOVEJOY, RICHARD
S.
MEINDL, THOMAS R. PRYZBECK,
AND
ROBERT P. MENSFORTH
Departments
of
Anthropology and Biology, Kent State University, Kent,
Ohio 44242
(C. O.L,
R.S. M., R.P M.); Department
of
Orthopaedic Surgery,
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio 44106
(C.
0.
L.);
Cleveland
Museum
of
Natural History, Cleveland, Ohio 44106
(C.
0.L);
Department
of
Human Anatomy, Northeast Ohio Universities College
of
Medicine,
Rootstown, Ohio 44272
(C.
0.L);
Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Ofice,
Cleveland, Ohio 44106 (C.
0.L);
Department
of
Anthropology, Washington
University,
St.
Louis, Missouri 63130 (TR.I?)
KEY
WORDS
Demography, Sacroiliac
Auricular, Ilium, Forensic, Age-determination,
ABSTRACT
A new method for the determination of adult skeletal age at
death based upon chronological changes in the auricular surface of the ilium
is presented. Formal stages have been constructed following extensive tests
and refinements in observations made of such changes.
Two
completely “blind”
tests were conducted to assess the accuracy and bias
of
the new method.
Results show that the system is equally accurate to pubic symphyseal aging
(although somewhat more difficult
to
apply), and also carries the advantages
of a higher preservation rate for the auricular surface in archaeological popu-
lations and continued age-related change beyond the fifth decade.
While the accurate determination of adult
age at death
is
a key element in the descrip-
tion and analysis of skeletal populations and
in forensic anthropology, criteria available
from which to systematically judge age at
death are limited. For some time the pubic
symphyseal face has been the principal
source of such data with auxiliary input
sometimes applied from cranial suture clo-
sure and dental wear. During the analysis of
age of the Libben population, we noted a
strong correlation between age determined
by other variables and morphological change
of
the auricular surface of the ilium. As a
consequence we conducted the present study
of
age changes in the auricular surface of the
ilium and their relation to age using both the
Todd Collection (Cleveland Museum
of
Nat-
ural History) and the Libben Collection (Kent
State University), as well as several forensic
cases (Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office)
that became available during the period of
the study.
Age changes in the auricular surface are
relatively well defined and sufficiently regu-
lar to provide accurate estimates of age at
death. However, they are somewhat more dif-
ficult to interpret than those used in pubic
symphyseal aging. The reasons for this are
twofold. First, there
is
no definitive “delayed
epiphysis” stage as
is
found in the symphysis
(the “ventral rampart”), and second, the age
changes in the auricular surface, while reg-
ular, are more complex. There are strong ad-
vantages of auricular surface aging over that
based on the pubic symphysis, however. The
survival rate of this region of the innominate
is substantially higher than the pubic sym-
physis in archaeological populations; inter-
pretable changes in the auricular surface
extend well beyond the age of
50
(while they
generally do not in the pubic symphysis); and
based upon the present study, they are
equally accurate in the prediction of age at
death. Therefore, while auricular surface ag-
ing is more difficult to master, the rewards
are well worth the effort.
Received February 16, 1982; revised January
2,
1985; accepted
January 3,1985.
0
1985 ALAN
R.
LISS,
INC
16
(2.0.
LOVEJOY, R.S.
MEINDL,
T.R.
PRYZBECK,
ANDR.P.
MENSFORTH
PREVIOUS DESCRIPTIONS
OF
THE AURICULAR
SURFACES AND THEIR CHANGE WITH AGE
The sacroiliac joint has received extensive
attention in the
literature
and has been the
subject of many anatomical descriptions. The
first comprehensive description was by
Meckel in 1815. While defined
as
an am-
phiarthrosis in earlier literature, it
is
now
clear that it is a true diarthrosis (Prentiss,
1917; Weisl, 1955; Frigerio et
al.,
1974;
Cohen, et al., 1967; Soholt, 1951; Solonen,
1957; Colachis
et
al., 1963; Bickel and Rom-
ness, 1957; Newton, 19571, the motion of
which is greatly increased as
a
consequence
of the hormones of pregnancy, particularly
relaxin (Sashin, 1930; Putschar, 1931).
The auricular surface itself has been the
subject of several anatomical descriptions
(Schunke, 1938; Sashin, 1930; Brooke, 1924).
Schunke
(1938)
examined the thickness of
the cartilage covering the opposing sacral
and iliac surfaces. He found sacral cartilage
to vary in thickness from
1
to
3
mm., while
iliac cartilage was usually less than
1
mm
thick. He also noted distinctive differences in
the nature of the cartilage covering the two
halves of the joint, an observation borne out
by this study (see below). He described the
sacral cartilage as being primarily hyaline
with “surface cells arranged in compact, par-
allel layers,” while the cartilage investing
the iliac portion of the joint was primarily
fibrous with occasional islands of hyaline
cartilage. He described the fibrocartilage
as
having
a
columnar arrangement along the
dorsoventral axis of the surface. Schunke ob-
served that after the third decade the sur-
faces of the joint became “roughened, furred,
and frayed.”
Sashin (1930) attributed this process to an
age-related increase in the proportion of
fi-
brocartilage in the joint (see below). Schunke
took issue with this observation, attributing
it instead to the more typical process of de-
generation seen in other movable joints with
synovial cavities. He noted, however, that in
none of his sample
of
200 joints did any ebur-
nation occur, an observation suggesting that
surface changes are in fact primarily
a
con-
sequence
of
an increase in the proportion of
fibrocartilage
as
suggested by Sashin, whose
work with
the
joint was much more exten-
sive and systematic. Observations of the sub-
chondral bone surface made during the
present study tend to support Sashin’s view,
since they progressively accumulate with age
in a regular way, usually without any asso-
ciation with significant osteoarthritic degen-
eration or marked osteophytosis.
Brooke’s (1924) observations on ankylosis
of the joint are of some interest to the present
study. He found that ankylosis was common
in males above the age
of
50 but always rare
in females. Thirty-seven percent of his sam-
ple of 105 males were ankylosed, and 76%
of
the sample of 44 joints above the age of 50
years showed ankylosis.
No
ankylosis was
observed in his sample of 105 females of all
ages, and he concluded that
it
was primarily
a male trait. He did not provide an age-spe-
cific report
of
his sample,
so
that his data are
of limited value in the determination of age,
nor did he specify whether he was reporting
fibrous or true bony ankylosis. Sashin also
reported ankylosis to be a frequent occur-
rence in older male joints that he reviewed
(1930). His data were more systematically
reported and are reproduced in Table
1.
He
also documented the well-established in-
crease in mobility of the sacroiliac joint with
pregnancy. This factor, along with preauric-
ular sulcus formation (also associated with
pregnancy) must be considered in auricular
aging, although on the whole these factors
seem to introduce only minimal bias in age
determination.
Use of the auricular surface proper for de-
termination of skeletal age at death was in-
cluded by Kobayashi in his general review of
indicators available for age assessment
(1967). He provides brief descriptions of some
changes with age.
HISTOLOGICAL CORRELATES
OF
AGING IN THE
AURICULAR SURFACE
Sashin’s extensive review of histological
changes that occurred with age in his sample
of 257 postmortem examinations of the auri-
cular surfaces (sacrum and ilium) clearly doc-
ument the regular changes that take place
in this joint with increasing age. It is impor-
tant to note that his paper did not come to
our attention until after the age changes de-
scribed below were prepared from osteologi-
cal material. The similarity in his description
of age changes observed histologically and
those of the present study (observed grossly)
are
striking. His work was based upon
a
sam-
ple of 43 cases between the ages of birth and
29 years (group
0,
111
cases between
30
and
59 years (group
a,
and 103 cases 60 years or
older (group IID. For group I he provided the
following description of the appearance
of
the
auricular cartilage of the ilium:
AURICULAR SURFACE AGING
17
TABLE
1.
Osteoarthritic changes and
bony
ankylosis
of
the sacroiliac joints (data
from
Sashin,
1930)
Osteophytes Bony ankylosis
Age
hr)
No.
Beginning Moderate Advanced Beginning Moderate Advanced
Males
Up to
29
30-39
40-49
50-59
Females
Up to
29
30-39
40-49
50-59
6
5
7
23
5
6
4
7
0
0
1
12
0
0
0
2
The cartilage lining the ilium
is
slightly
bluish, dull, and striated. The surface is
grooved by transverse radiating lines, giv-
ing
it
a
striped appearance. The articulat-
ing cartilage
is
thin, in places membrane-
like, and varies in thickness from one-half
to two millimeters.
For group I1 he found the following changes
to have occurred normally:
The iliac cartilage
. . .
becomes irregular,
granular, often very roughened, and
coated here and there with yellow plaques.
When the joint
of
a
man in the fourth
decade is examined, the changes are likely
to
be
more pronounced.
. .
.
The articular
cartilage is usually very irregular and
coarsely granular; around its margins are
erosions and bony irregularities, or osteo-
phytes. In some cases, too, fibrotic changes
appear in this cartilage and loose strands
may be seen free in the joint space. In
a
male
at
the fifth decade, one very fre-
quently finds the cartilages irregular.
There are erosions, tears, and fibrotic
changes, with connective-tissue strands
connecting the joint surfaces.
.
. .
His description of cases beyond the age of
60
continues to emphasize the further degen-
eration of the joint and its articular carti-
lage. Both joint surfaces become “deeply
icteric; the surfaces were rough and very ir-
regular; coarse fibrous strands passed from
surface to surface.” Osteophytosis, with fi-
brous and bony ankylosis became progres-
sively more frequent with age.
While Sashin’s descriptions of the cartilag-
inous changes do not correspond exactly with
those described below for auricular subchon-
dral
bone, the general correspondence be-
tween the two
is
excellent, and correlation
between these separate observations is
usu-
ally obvious (see below).
METHODS
The present study
is
based upon detailed
observation of over
250
well-preserved auric-
ular surfaces from the Libben population and
systematic observation of approximately
500
specimens from the Todd Collection. Four-
teen forensic cases with confirmed identity
and age were also used. The method was
then tested independently using two care-
fully screened samples from the Todd Collec-
tion whose ages at death were unknown to
the investigators and that had not been used
in the development of formal aging stan-
dards
(see
Lovejoy et al.,
1985).
The two sam-
ple sizes were
98
and
108,
respectively.
Results of these blind
tests
are reviewed after
presentation
of
the system itself.
Terminology
The following terms and definitions (Fig.
1)
will prove useful in the descriptions and dis-
cussion that follow:
Auricular surface: This
is
the area of sub-
chondral bone forming the iliac portion of the
sacroiliac joint. The sacral portion or surface
taking part in this joint does not reflect the
age changes described below and cannot be
used to determine age. This is most likely
a
consequence of the
greater
tendency of iliac
cartilage to become fibrotic with age, and
its
thinner covering to reflect more distinctive
changes in the subchondral bone.
Demifaces: The form of the typical auricu-
lar
surface is in the general shape of
a
“boomerang” with the apex occurring at the
junction of the surface and the posterior
ter-
mination of the arcuate line of the innomi-
nate. The superior portion relative to this
18
C.O. LOVEJOY, R.S. MEINDL, T.R. PRYZBECK, AND R.P. MENSFORTH
Retroauricular
Area
\
Preauricular
1‘
Sulcus
Inferior Demiface
Fig.
1.
Region utilized in auricular surface age deter-
mination. For discussion see text.
apex will be called the superior demiface,
while that below this point will be called the
inferior demiface. Since the term “demiface”
(adopted from traditional pubic symphysis
aging description)
is
somewhat cumbersome,
all future references will simply be to the
upper or lower face with the prefix “demi”
understood.
Apex: As just described this
is
the portion
of the perimeter of
the
joint
in
immediate
contact with the posterior terminus of the
arcuate line.
Retroauricular area: This shall be consid-
ered the general
area
posterior to the auric-
ular surface from which the lumbosacral and
sacroiliac ligament complex arises.
It
may be
considered to extend from the auricular
sur-
face posterior to the posterior inferior iliac
spine, and superiorly
as
far
as
the insertion
of the iliocostalis.
Porosity: Perforations of subchondral bone
of the auricular surface will be generally
termed porosiy
.
This
is
not to be confused
with those that arise
as
a
consequence of
hyperostosis or osteopenia. With respect to
the auricular surface, there frequently occur
small to large perforations that are to some
extent associated with age changes (see be-
low). These will be referred to with respect to
their size
as
“microporosity” (fine, just opti-
cally visible perforations) and “macroporos-
ity”
(less
regular, large, generally oval per-
forations ranging from
1
to
10
mm in di-
ameter).
Grain: Reference will be made below to
changes in the “grain” of the surface. This
refers to the gross appearance of the surface
with respect to
its
fine structure as far
as
can
be judged by the unaided eye. Stereomicro-
scopic inspection of this feature does not en-
hance (in our experience)
its
value as an age
indicator. A heavily “grained” surface is one
that resembles closely the surface of fine
sandpaper.
Billowing: This term has also been adopted
from one used in descriptions of pubic sym-
physeal age changes. However, it does not
have quite the same meaning in the present
description. Herein
it
is
meant to represent
the presence or absence of transverse ridging
(usually running transversely across upper
and lower faces). The “billows” vary from
large regular surface features, to fine grained
just-visible ridges.
Density: Reference will be made below to
the density of the auricular surface. This
re-
fers only to the surface appearance and not
to
the amount of bone actually present (which
would require sectioning). A “dense” surface
is one in which the subchondral bone appears
compact, smooth, and shows
a
marked ab-
sence of “grain.”
GENERAL NATURE
OF
SURFACE CHANGES WITH
AGE
Grain and density
Most surfaces retain
a
granular appear-
ance until it
is
lost to other surface features.
Granulation, however, becomes more coarse
with increasing age. Thus a fine granular
appearance is an indicator of youth, and is
usually associated with billowing and striae.
Loss
of granularity increases with age. Such
loss may occur
as
early
as
27
years, but in
such cases the loss does not cover the entire
surface. Complete loss of granularity may
occur
as
early
as
the middle of the fourth
decade, but does not become a modal condi-
tion until about
45-50
years, even though
many auricular surfaces of this age retain
a
partially granular appearance. The general
sequence, then, is from
a
fine to coarse con-
dition, with eventual loss to densification (the
subchondral bone becomes highly compact
and exhibits no grain).
AURICULAR SURFACE AGING
19
Macroporosity
Many older auricular surfaces do not dem-
onstrate this feature, but when present, it is
a general indicator of age. Its
first
occurrence
in our sample was at age
38,
but
it
remains
rare until age
50,
after which
it
becomes
much more frequent.
It
should not be con-
fused with occasional subchondral defects
that can
be
present at any age. A general
clue is that macroporosity usually covers a
significant portion
of
the surface, while sub-
chondral defects are intermittent and not
systemic.
Billowing
This feature is never as marked as in the
pubic symphysis but is present in most
younger individuals.
It
may be defined as
regular, generally transverse, undulations of
the surface.
It
generally declines with in-
creasing age between 25 and
40.
The oldest
age
of
occurrence in our sample was
50.
It
should not be confused with surface irregu-
larities, which do not show a definite trans-
verse pattern. It tends
to
reduce between
25
and
30
and to be replaced by striations (see
below).
Striations (striae)
Transverse striations tend to remain as bil-
lowing decreases and to characterize individ-
ual surfaces in the fourth decade. They may
be retained after the age of
50
but are rare.
They tend to be more marked on the lower
face. Thus, a granular and slightly striated
auricular surface without marked billowing
(and other changes discussed below) is typi-
cal of age
35.
Striae differ from billows only
in degree. Thus billows tend
to
become striae
with age, and this feature remains generally
until the age of
40.
Above this age, billows/
striae are rare. The oldest age of occurrence
in our sample was
50
years.
Apex
The edge
of
the auricular surface in the
region of the apex is a diagnostic feature.
It
tends
to
be sharp and distinct until age
35,
after which
it
may become more broad (as a
consequence of arthritic lipping) and vaguely
triangular in form,
or
become blunted by the
formation of
a
“rim.” Most arthritic changes
are first seen here (those which can be most
clearly interpreted). The degree to which the
surface is raised from the innominate is not
a reliable indicator of age and is more pro-
nounced in the female. Formation of the
preauricular sulcus causes the anterior lip of
the lower face to become isolated and dis-
tinct. This should not be considered an indi-
cator of age.
Retroauricular Area
Activity in this area is an indicator of age.
Young specimens show very smooth and un-
differentiated surfaces posterior to the auric-
ular surface (but may have significant
surface features that are themselves “inac-
tive”). The term “activity” includes an in-
crease in porosity, fine
to
large osteophytes,
and general surface irregularity. While not a
good indicator of age by itself, in conjunction
with other features of the auricular surface
proper,
it
contributes valuable information
for the age estimate.
Transverse Organization
One of the principal features of younger
auricular surfaces is a definitive anteropos-
terior organization of the surface. Both bil-
lows and striae show this definitive feature.
As aging progresses such organization de-
clines and the surface becomes more amor-
phous with no clear directional structure.
This is an important factor, since vestiges of
billowing
or
striae may be seen in some areas
of older surfaces, but the age of these speci-
mens will be detectable by their lack
of
a
clear transverse organization.
In order to illustrate the general behavior
of each of the above types of chronological
change, we qualitatively assessed (presence-
absence)
102
ilia from the Todd Collection.
The results are shown in Figures
2-5.
Each
shows the percentage of the sample by de-
cade that exhibited each of the various traits
described above. As no sex differentials were
detected in any of these characters, they were
not graphed separately by sex.
DESCRIPTION
OF
GENERAL AGE-CHANGE
PROCESS
Before a series of stages that can be used
to
estimate age at death are presented,
it
will
be useful to describe age changes in the form
of a general progression. Five basic phases
may be isolated in age transformation of the
auricular surface.
Early post-epiphyseal phase
An irregular, plate-like epiphysis appears
and fuses quickly to the sacral portion
of
the
sacroiliac joint shortly after puberty (al-
though
it
is
occasionally substantially de-
20
100-
80-
60-
%
40-
20-
C.O. LOVEJOY, R.S. MEINDL, T.R. PRYZBECK,
AND
R.P.
MENSFORTH
,
,
t
i
I
I
I
I
i
,
-
Granularity
c
-
-
Density
18
3’0
40
50
i0
i0
AGE
IN
YEARS
Fig.
2.
Results of qualitative assessment
of
granularity and density by decade. Correlation
between decade and percent displaying trait is
.87
for density, but nonsignificant for granular-
ity.
The
latter reflects the fact that type
of
granularity (smooth-coarse) is the age related
feature, while simple presence/absence
of
granularity is only slightly correlated with age.
N
=
102.
layed). There
is
no similar epiphysis in the
development of the auricular portion of the
joint, but
a
“youthful” appearance
is
re-
tained, which
is
somewhat similar to the
more striking “subepiphyseal” surface of the
pubic symphyseal face prior to the fusion of
the ventral rampart. This surface
is
quite
distinctive and easy to recognize and will be
described in more detail below.
It
generally
lasts
until the mid-20s.
Young adult phase
This extends from the mid-20s to the mid-
30s
or slightly older. During this period most
of the periauricular features remain un-
changed, but the surface exhibits loss of bil-
lowing and
a
coarsening of granulation.
Mid adult phase
During this period, age changes in the sur-
face continue, and those in associated peri-
auricular areas (such
as
the retroauricular
area) are more marked and also become use-
ful in interpreting age (range: mid-30s to mid-
40s).
Early senescent phase
Between the mid-40s and mid-50s the sur-
face becomes more dense, and periauricular
activity is further increased. Changes are
mostly in grain, porosity, density, and the
condition of the apex (see below).
Breakdown
After the approximate ages of 55-60, the
surface begins to undergo progressive de-
struction of
its
subchondral bone. The pro-
cess
is
highly variable,
as
will be described
below, but in
all
cases
it
involves increased
porosity and irregularity, with marked peri-
auricular changes.
AURICULAR SURFACE AGING
21
1OC
80
6C
%
40
20
\
-
Transverse Organization
0
Striae
r----*
Billowing
8
AGE
IN
YEARS
Fig.
3.
Results
of
qualitative assessment
of
transverse organization, the occurrence
of
striae,
and the degree
of
billowing. Correlations between decade and percent displaying each trait are
-.98,
-.96,
and
-.97
respectively.
N
=
102.
CHRONOLOGICAL STAGES OF THE AURICULAR
SURFACE
The following are formal standards for age
assessment using the auricular surface. A
series of modal age phases are illustrated for
reference in Figures
6
and
7.
Relevant data
for the specimens illustrated in these
figures
may be found in Table
2.
The specimens
shown were selected
after
photography, be-
cause the photographic appearance of many
specimens differed significantly from their
gross
appearance (e.g., shadow effects dis-
guised billowing
or
striations, etc.). Thus each
photograph illustrates the modal appearance
of an auricular surface of its prescribed
“modal age,” even though some specimens,
if studied directly, would yield slightly older
or younger age estimates. Table
2
also
lists
the age assessment made by one of us
(C.O.L.)
during the second blind test (Todd Sample
11-Lovejoy et al.,
1985)
as an illustration of
their use in age determination prior to our
knowledge of their actual age. Figure 6 shows
modal auricular stages for the third and
fourth decades; Figure
7
shows modal auric-
ular stages for the fifth and sixth decades. It
should be noted that only the actual auric-
ular faces are shown; final age estimates
should also incorporate data from the re-
troauricular area and apex.
20-24
The surface displays fine granular texture
and marked transverse organization. There
is
no
retro-auricular activity, apical activity,
or porosity. The surface appears youthful be-
cause
of
broad and well-defined billows,
which impart the definitive transverse orga-
nization. Billows are well-defined and cover
most of the surface. Any subchondral defects
are
smooth-edged and rounded (Fig. 6A). Note
distinct transverse billows and very fine gran-
ularity.
22
C.O. LOVEJOY, R.S. MEINDL, T.R. PRYZBECK,
AND
R.P. MENSFORTH
-
Macroporosity
a-.---.e
MICroporOsity
80
1
."
I
/
I
I
r
,
I
""1
I
18
i0
i0
<O
60
i0
AGE
IN
YEARS
Fig.
4.
Results of qualitative assessment
of
macroporosity and microporosity by decade.
Correlations between decade and percent displaying each trait are
.84
for macroporosity and
.96
for microporosity.
N
=
102.
25-29
Changes from the previous phase are not
marked and are mostly reflected in slight to
moderate loss of billowing, with replacement
by striae. There is no apical activity, poros-
ity, or retroauricular activity. The sur-
face still appears youthful owing to marked
transverse organization. Granulation is
slightly more coarse (Fig. 6B,C). Note slight
reduction of billows in Figure 6B and demon-
strable replacement by striae in Figure 6C.
Distinct transverse organization is evident
in both specimens.
30-34
Both faces are largely quiescent with some
loss
of transverse organization. Billowing is
much reduced and replaced by (definite)
striae. The surface
is
more coarsely and rec-
ognizably granular than in previous phase,
with no significant changes at apex. Small
areas of microporosity may appear. Slight
retroauricular activity may occasionally be
present. In general, coarse granulation su-
percedes and replaces billowing (Fig. 6D-F).
Note smoothing of surface by replacement of
billows by fine striae, but distinct retention
of slight billowing on the lower face of all
three specimens.
Loss
of transverse organi-
zation and coarsening of granularity is
evident.
35-39
Both faces are coarsely and uniformly
granulated, with marked reduction of both
billowing and striae, but striae may still be
present under close examination. Transverse
organization is present but poorly defined.
There is some activity in the retroauricular
area but this
is
usually slight. Minimal
changes are seen at the apex, microporosity
is slight, and there is no macroporosity. This
AURICULAR SURFACE AGING
23
,.A,
,
'.\
**.*
',\
I
-...'
\
I.
I
,
,
,
.*
4
-
lschial
e-
-
-
-e
Apical
c-----*
Retroaurtcular
1
30
40
50 60
70
4
-
lschial
e-
-
-
-e
Apical
c-----*
Retroaurtcular
30
40
50
60
70
AGE
IN
YEARS
Fig.
5.
Results of qualitative assessment of auxiliary features (those not employed in formal
descriptions of the auricular surface itself) by decade. Qualitative assessment of osteophyte
formation around the ischial tuberosity is also included. Correlations between decade and
percent displaying trait are
35
for ischial changes,
.80
for apical changes, and
.92
for retroau-
ricular activity.
N
=
102.
TABLE
2.
Figure Todd Modal Blind Stated
reference
No.
age age est. age Sex
6A
854
20
18
19
F
6B
1851 25 27 33
M
6C
1243 28 26 24
F
6D
1245 30 34 31
M
6E
1139 32 33 31
M
6F 1313 34 29 35 M
6G
690 35 23 35
F
6H
612 36 33
36
F
61
1319 38 44 39
M
6J
1468 40 37
37
M
7K
1431 41 41 42 M
7L
1409 42 42 38 M
7M 1476 44
40
44
M
7N
1687 45 54 49
M
70
1174 47 54 54
M
7P
1422 50 59 50 M
1549L 55 68 54
F
F
7Q
7R
1549R 55 68 54
7s 1132 49 47
51
M
7T 1852 60
+
63
63
M
Fig.
6.
Modal changes in the auricular surface with age: third and fourth decades
(A-J).
These may be considered standards for the surface itself,
but
final age determination should
also incorporate auxiliary features as well. Modal, estimated, and stated ages are given in
Table
2.
Fig.
7.
Modal changes in the auricular surface with age: fifth and sixth decade
(K-T).
See
legend
of
Figure
6
and Table
2.
26
C.O. LOVEJOY, R.S.
MEINDL,
T.R.
PRYZBECK,
AND
R.P.
MENSFORTH
is the primary period of uniform granularity
(Fig. 6G-I). Note coarse granularity, absence
of striae
(still
slightly visible in Fig. 6G and
in one area of lower face of Fig. 61). Further
reduction of distinct transverse organization
is
evident.
40-44
No billowing
is
seen. Striae may be present
but very vague. The face is still partially
(coarsely) granular and there
is
a
marked
loss of transverse organization. Partial den-
sification (which may occur in islands) of the
surface with commensurate loss of grain is
present along with slight to moderate activ-
ity in the retroauricular area. Occasional
macroporosity
is
seen, but
this
is
not typical.
Slight changes
are
usually present at apex.
Some increase in microporosity
is
seen, de-
pending upon the degree of densification. The
primary feature
is
the transition from
a
granular to
a
dense surface (Fig. 6J,7K-M).
Note distinct presence
of
microporosity in
Figure
6J and simulation of billowing (this
specimen does not display true billowing be-
cause
it
lacks transverse Organization). Mi-
croporosity
is
also clear in remaining
specimens. Note densification of lower face of
Figure 7L and upper face of
Figure
7M. Mi-
nor
striae
are
still
visible on upper face
of
Figure
7L and lower face of Figures 7K and
M,
but in both cases expression
is
very slight
and secondary to more distinctive age fea-
tures.
4549
Significant loss of granulation
is
seen in
most specimens, with replacement by dense
bone. No billows or striae
are
present.
Changes at apex
are
slight to moderate but
are
almost always present. There
is
a
distinct
tendency for the surface to become dense. No
transverse organization
is
evident. Most or
all of any microporosity
is
lost to densifica-
tion process. There
is
increased irregularity
of margins with moderate retroauricular ac-
tivity and little or no macroporosity (Fig.
7N,O,S). Note distinct densification of these
three
specimens and the almost complete
lack of transverse organization. These
sur-
faces
are
markedly irregular because of the
densification process. Some microporosity
is
present in Figure 7s.
50-60
This
is
a
further elaboration of previous
stage, in which marked surface irregularity
becomes paramount feature. Topography,
however, shows no transverse or other form
of organization. Moderate granulation is oc-
casionally retained, but
is
usually lost dur-
ing previous phase and
is
generally absent.
No
striae
or billows are present. The inferior
face generally
is
lipped
at
inferior terminus,
so
as
to extend beyond
the
body of the innom-
inate bone. Apical changes
are
almost invar-
iable and may be marked. Increasing
irregularity of margins is seen. Macroporos-
ity
is
present in some cases but
it
is
not
requisite. Retroauricular activity is moder-
ate
to
marked in most cases (Fig. 7P-R
Q
and
R
are opposite sides of same specimen;
despite distinct differences in shape, age fea-
tures
are
symmetrical). Note irregularity of
surface, macroporosity of lower faces of
all
three
specimens, marked density, and ab-
sence of any youthful criteria.
60
+
The paramount feature
is
a
nongranular,
irregular surface, with distinct signs of sub-
chondral destruction. No transverse organi-
zation
is
seen and there is
a
definitive
absence of any youthful criteria. Macroporos-
ity is present in about one-third of all cases.
Apical activity
is
usually marked but
is
not
requisite for this age category. Margins be-
come dramatically irregular and lipped, with
typical degenerative joint change. The re-
troauricular
area
becomes well defined with
profuse osteophytes of low to moderate relief
(Fig. 7T typical 60+ auricular surface).
There
is
clear destruction of subchondral
bone, absence of transverse organization, and
increased irregularity. Older specimens dis-
play further directional changes of this type.
METHODS OF
APPLICATION
The preceding set of phases has been con-
structed to serve
as
age modes in an idealized
metamorphosis of the auricular surface.
It
is
designed to be diagnostically applied in the
same manner
as
the Todd ten-phase system
for
the
pubic symphyseal face. However,
while many auricular surfaces will clearly
conform to one of the above stage descrip-
tions, many will not, the latter containing
combinations of features from two or more
phase mode descriptions. For the purposes of
seriation and final age assessment, the ob-
server should seek out from each auricular
surface the paramount age criteria that best
represent
the
biological aging process and
correspond to
the
designated phase
of
the
formal method. Auxiliary indicators (e.g., ap-
ical and retroauricular activity) may then be
AURICULAR SURFACE AGING
27
used
to
raise
or
lower the estimate of age
within the age mode,
or
in some cases, to
raise
or
lower the age mode itself.
In general the age modes are best repre-
sented by the following paramount
characters:
1.
20-24:
billowing and very fine
granularity.
2. 25-29:
reduction of billowing, but reten-
tion of youthful appearance.
3.30-34
general loss of billowing, replace-
ment by striae, and distinct coarsening
of
granularity.
4.35-39:
uniform coarse granularity.
5.
4044:
transition from coarse granular-
ity
to dense surface; this may take part over
islands of the surface of one
or
both faces.
6.
45-49:
completion of densification with
complete loss of granularity.
7.50-59:
dense irregular surface of rugged
topography and moderate to marked activity
in periauricular areas.
8.
60+:
breakdown with marginal lipping,
macroporosity, increased irregularity, and
marked activity in periauricular areas.
While each auricular surface will be distin-
guishable as falling into one of the above
eight categories, the remaining details must
then be used
to
refine the age estimate.
For
example, billowing
is
occasionally retained
well into later life. In the case of a coarsely
grained surface, but one that still retains
some billowing, the former indicator is para-
mount, but the latter should be used to re-
duce the age estimate slightly (within the
mode). Partial breakdown may occasionally
occur prior to its typical age mode. An auric-
ular surface in the transitional phase be-
tween granulation and density that also
showed
a
small area of breakdown
or
unusu-
ally marked apical
or
retroauricular activity,
would be placed in the late portion of the age
mode
(43
or
44
years)
or
moved to the suc-
ceeding one (i.e., the specimen might be aged
4547
years). Practice and experience in the
application of the above modes will make
their use more clear.
Some mention of sex-specific application
should also be made. In general the above
age modes may be applied in the same fash-
ion
to
both male and female auricular
sur-
faces. The single exception
is
female
innominates which show clear and marked
pre-auricular sulcus formation. In these cases
age changes along the inferior margin and
apex are accentuated, the effects of these
must be disregarded in the age estimate.
TESTS
OF
ACCURACY AND RELIABILITY
Two
questions are clearly paramount in
judging the usefulness and validity of an age
indicator. The first is interobserver reliabil-
ity, and the second
is
its
accuracy in the
prediction of real age at death. The system
presented above has been exhaustively tested
and retested using both the Libben and Todd
collections. In earlier phases of development
of the system, several tests were made using
random Todd samples of
100.
In each
of
these,
correlations with stated age ranged from
.55
to
.75.
However, during these applications
the system was not fully developed, nor were
the Todd specimens used screened for accu-
racy of stated age.
Two
final tests of the
system were made using Todd material for
which the stated age at death had been
screened for accuracy, and that did not uti-
lize any
of
the specimens used in the devel-
opment of the formal system. Slight
modifications were made in the system be-
tween the conduction of these two tests (see
Lovejoy et al.,
1985).
These latter two tests
thus compose a completely blind and objec-
tive evaluation of the auricular aging tech-
nique. Partial results of these tests are
presented in Table
3.
A complete description
of the methods used to construct the tests
and of selection of the samples used, and a
more complete presentation of results (in-
cluding Pearson correlation coefficients, com-
parisons with other age indicators including
TABLE
3.
Test
I
Test I1
auricular auricular
Actual age (years) surface surface
18-29
Inaccuracy'
Bias2
3.3
0.9 3.2
2.6
30-39
Inaccuracy
7.6 7.2
Bias
0.9 1.6
40-49
Inaccuracy
9.4
7.7
Inaccuracy
9.9
11.1
Bias
-8.3 1.9
Inaccuracy
9.0 7.2
Bias
-5.9
-2.9
50-59
Over
60
Bias
-6.2 -5.8
All
ages
All ages normalized3
N
98 108
Inaccuracy
7.8
7.0
Bias
-3.5
0.0
Inaccuracy
7.8 7.3
Bias
-3.7
-0.5
'Inaccuracy is mean error without regard
to
sign.
*Bias is mean error incorporating sign
of
error.
%ormalization consisted
of
equating the weight at each age
class.
28
C.O.
LOVEJOY,
R.S.
MEINDL,
T.R. PRYZBECK,
AND
R.P.
MENSFORTH
pubis, Komolgorov-Smirnov tests with
real
age distributions, etc.) may be found in
Lo-
vejoy
et
al.
(1985).
In addition, several observers were given
the above descriptions, and without further
comment (following some practice for famil-
arization) or further instruction, were asked
to apply them to the second of the above
samples. The results of these tests of ob-
server reliability and accuracy of age predic-
tion demonstrated that the technique
is
highly replicable. Correlations between ob-
servers for a sample of
110
ranged between
.76
and
.81,
which were comparable to simi-
lar
tests performed using pubic symphyseal
aging. Thus, the accuracy and reliability
of
the present system compares favorably with
other systems utilizing the pubic symphyseal
face. These data, in conjunction with the
much higher rate of preservation of the au-
ricular surface in archaeological material,
make the auricular surface
a
new and valu-
able tool in estimates of age at death. When
used systematically in conjunction with other
age indicators (including the pubic symphy-
seal face), they will also improve the reliabil-
ity of estimates of age at death in forensic
anthropology (see Lovejoy
et
al.,
1985).
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The research reported in this paper was
funded by the National Science Foundation,
Award No.
BNS-77-07958.
The Cleveland
Museum of Natural History generously
loaned skeletal material from the Hamann-
Todd Collection.
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