Cranial suture closure and its implications for age estimation

International Journal of Osteoarchaeology (Impact Factor: 0.95). 09/1994; 4(3):193 - 207. DOI: 10.1002/oa.1390040304


Three age estimation techniques using ectocranial and/or endocranial suture closure are tested on a sample of known age from Spitalfields, London in order to determine the value of cranial suture closure as an indicator of age at death. The three techniques are those proposed by Acsádi and Nemeskéri, Meindl and Lovejoy and Perizonius. Results indicate that the Acsádi and Nemeskéri technique, which is based on endocranial sutures, can be used to distinguish young and middle-aged individuals in the Spitalfields sample but gives no information for crania over the age of 50 years. Age estimation using the Meindl and Lovejoy and Perizonius (Old system) techniques, which use ectocranial sutures, was found to be subject to a number of complicating factors, of which sexual dimorphism in the rate and pattern of closure is the most significant. A method of estimating age at death based on both endocranial and ectocranial suture closure is developed on the basis of the Spitalfields sample. The technique attempts to overcome some of the problems associated with both intra- and interpopulation variation in cranial suture closure. For a truly accurate age-estimation technique based on cranial suture closure we would need to know more about the causes and functions of suture closure in human populations.

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    • "The oldest and probably most controversial methods in skeletal age estimation are those based on the obliteration of cranial sutures. Several studies have investigated the reliability of these systems, and several revised methods have been used on different populations (Key et al., 1994; Perizonius, 1984) in the last decades, but their accuracy in overall use is still problematic. Moreover, many researchers have observed that ectocranial suture closure pattern in particular has an extreme variability, leading them to conclude that the methods based on them are inaccurate and problematic in determination of the age of skeletonized individuals (Brooks, 1955; Cray et al., 2011b; Hershkovitz et al., 1997; Powers, 1962; Sahni et al., 2005; Singer, 1953; Wolff et al., 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: The primary objective of this study was to perform new, relevant information about cranial suture closure in adults. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in targeted genes were examined, which encode factors that play an important role in cranial suture development and maintenance. Our hypothesis was that some of these genes and polymorphisms can influence the cranial suture obliteration status in adulthood as well. Ossification of cranial sutures was ascertained according to Meindl and Lovejoy's vault system (1985: Am J Phys Anthropol 68(1):57-66), and peripheral blood samples were collected during autopsy procedure of 106 individuals at the Department of Forensic and Insurance Medicine, Semmelweis University, Hungary. Genotyping of SNPs was conducted using competitive allele-specific polymerase chain reaction KASPar chemistry. Multivariate linear models were used to test whether SNP polymorphism of the investigated genes has a significant effect on the ectocranial suture synostosis in adults. The msh homeobox 1 (MSX1): rs3821947 polymorphism showed significant association with the extent of suture obliteration. Cranial suture closure in adults is a complex, multifactorial process. According to previous results MSX1 has a role in calvarial bone development and it has an effect on sutural mesenchyme in latter postnatal stages. Our results demonstrate MSX1 effects on suture obliteration in adulthood. These findings represent new, relevant information indicating that genetic background can have an impact on cranial suture closure in adults. Am. J. Hum. Biol., 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2013 · American Journal of Human Biology
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    • "Some studies have confirmed gender differences in the ossification of cranial sutures, while others have refuted it [15, 16, 18, 19, 25]. In this study, analysis of age estimations based on the “Average method” scoring suggests that suture closure occurs more rapidly in women. "
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    ABSTRACT: Closure of cranial sutures progresses with age; therefore, macroscopic assessment of cranial sutures has been used as one method of age estimation. Postmortem computed tomography (PMCT), which many forensic medical departments and institutes have begun to adopt, has the potential to simplify the gathering of information from cranial sutures for both surface and cross-sectional evaluation. To examine the feasibility of age estimation by cross-sectional multidetector computed tomography images of the sagittal suture, PMCT findings of 125 subjects of known age and sex were retrospectively reviewed. The sagittal suture was divided into four segments, and 20 cross-sectional slices from each segment were analyzed. These slices were each categorized by visual evaluation into one of the seven stages defined by Harth et al. according to the degree of closure. The mean stage value of 20 slices was calculated for each segment. We were able to evaluate cross-sectional images of the sagittal suture by PMCT, and a positive correlation between age and closure degree was observed. Despite the prediction interval achieved with this method not being superior to traditional macroscopic or flat-panel CT assessment, multidetector CT is a potentially useful tool, in conjunction with other methods, for age estimation, particularly in adult females and in cases where only a skull is the sole remain.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2013 · Deutsche Zeitschrift für die Gesamte Gerichtliche Medizin
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    • "These findings suggest relevant inter-population difference in the pattern of suture obliteration, and it is therefore understandable that some practitioners in the field claim that it is an unreliable method of determining the age of the cranium [26– 28,30–32]. Although lack of high efficiency was often cited as a shortcoming, some researchers suggest that the problem with most existing methods is that they use mean closure scores instead of using individual suture parts (a method that seems to correlate more with the biological age), and methods should be updated and used together with other ageing methodologies [24]. Above all, some authors expect correlation between suture fusion and increasing masticatory strain with age, and they conjecture that such mechanical factors can also have an effect, especially on ectocranial suture closure [30]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Several methods of estimating age on the basis of human skeletal remains are used all over the world, methods that were established using known age and sex databases or during medicolegal autopsies. Over the course of the past several decades, many tests have been carried out on various populations to confirm the applicability of these methods in age assessment. While the opinions of experts vary regarding the cranial suture closure techniques, morphology of the sternal end of the fourth rib has been proven to be more accurate as an age assessor. The purpose of this paper is to test the reliability of three age estimation methods on a Central European population. Observation of ecto- and endocranial suture closure after Meindl and Lovejoy and Acsádi and Nemeskéri (239 individuals in the case of Meindl and Lovejoy and 238 in the case of Acsádi and Nemeskéri) and morphology of the sternal ends of the third, fourth and fifth ribs in accordance with Işcan (116 individuals) was done on a Hungarian sample of known sex and age at death at autopsy procedures. According to the observations, (1) the state of ectocranial suture closure was so erratic that it was not useful in age assessment, (2) obliteration phases of the endocranial sutures yield only a rough estimation, and (3) age determination from sternal ends of the ribs was the most reliable, especially with the application of slightly expanded age intervals on the Hungarian population.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2012 · Forensic science international
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