Age-at-death estimation from skeletal remains typically utilizes the roughness of pubic symphysis articular surfaces. This study presents a new quantitative method adapting a tool from geometric morphometrics, bandpass filtering of partial warp bending energy to extract only age-related changes of the surfaces. The study sample consisted of 440 surface-scanned symphyseal pubic bones from men between 14 and 82 years of age, which were landmarked with 102 fixed and surface semilandmarks. From the original sample, 371 specimens within Procrustes distance of 0.05 of the side-specific average were selected. For this subsample, age was correlated with total bending energy (calculated as summed squared partial warps amplitudes) for a wide range of plausible bandpass filters. For our subsample’s 188 right-side surfaces, the correlation between age and bandpass filtered versions of bending energy peaks relatively sharply at r = −0.648 for ages up through 49 years against the first seven partial warp amplitudes only. The finding for left symphyses is similar. The results demonstrate that below the age 50, the symphyseal surface form changes most systematically related to age may be best detected by a lowpass-filtered version of bending energy: signals at the largest geometric scales of roughness rather than its full spectrum. Combining this method with information from other skeletal features could further improve age-at-death estimation based on the symphyseal pubic surface.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
The sample studied in this work belongs to the osteological collection of the Laboratory of Anthropology of the University of Granada, the software used for the analysis of the data is open source.
Becker I, Woodley SJ, Stringer MD (2010) The adult human pubic symphysis: a systematic review. J Anat 217:475–487. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7580.2010.01300.x
Todd TW (1920) Age changes in the pubic bone. Am J Phys Anthropol 3:285–334. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.1330030301
Todd TW (1930) Age changes in the pubic bone. VIII. Roentgenographic differentiation Am J Phys Anthropol 14:255–271. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.1330140205
Brooks S, Suchey JM (1990) Skeletal age determination based on the os pubis: a comparison of the Acsádi-Nemeskéri and Suchey-Brooks methods. Hum Evol 5:227–238. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02437238
Gilbert BM, McKern TW (1973) A method for aging the female os pubis. Am J Phys Anthropol 38:31–38. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.1330380109
Meindl RS, Lovejoy CO, Mensforth RP, Walker RA (1985) A revised method of age determination using the os pubis, with a review and tests of accuracy of other current methods of pubic symphyseal aging. Am J Phys Anthropol 68:29–45. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.1330680104
White TD, Folkens PA (2005) The human bone manual. Elsevier, Amsterdam
Garvin HM, Passalacqua NV (2012) Current practices by forensic anthropologists in adult skeletal age estimation. J Forensic Sci 57:427–433. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1556-4029.2011.01979.x
Baccino E, Schmitt A (2006) Determination of adult age at death in the forensic context. In: Forensic anthropology and medicine. Springer, pp 259–280. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-59745-099-7_11
Kimmerle EH, Prince DA, Berg GE (2008) Inter-observer variation in methodologies involving the pubic symphysis, sternal ribs, and teeth. J Forensic Sci 53:594–600. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1556-4029.2008.00715.x
Soto CF, Algee-Hewitt BFB, Bravo Morante G et al (2018) Age-at-Death Estimation for Modern Populations in Mexico and Puerto Rico through the Use of 3D Laser Scans of the Pubic Symphysis. Hum Biol 90:213–229. https://doi.org/10.13110/humanbiology.90.3.02
Marquez-Grant N (2015) An overview of age estimation in forensic anthropology: perspectives and practical considerations. Ann Hum Biol 42:308–322. https://doi.org/10.3109/03014460.2015.1048288
Slice DE, Algee-Hewitt BFB (2015) Modeling bone surface morphology: a fully quantitative method for age-at-death estimation using the pubic symphysis. J Forensic Sci 60:835–843. https://doi.org/10.1111/1556-4029.12778
Stoyanova D, Algee-Hewitt BFB, Slice DE (2015) An enhanced computational method for age-at-death estimation based on the pubic symphysis using 3 D laser scans and thin plate splines. Am J Phys Anthropol 158:431–440. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.22797
Stoyanova DK, Algee-Hewitt BFB, Kim J, Slice DE (2017) A computational framework for age-at-death estimation from the skeleton: surface and outline analysis of 3D laser scans of the adult pubic symphysis. J Forensic Sci 62:1434–1444. https://doi.org/10.1111/1556-4029.13439
Milner GR, Boldsen JL (2012) Transition analysis: A validation study with known-age modern American skeletons. Am J Phys Anthropol 148:98–110. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.22047
Overbury RS, Cabo LL, Dirkmaat DC, Symes SA (2009) Asymmetry of the os pubis: Implications for the Suchey-Brooks method. Am J Phys Anthropol 139:261–268. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.20999
Currie P (2018) From geometric morphometrics to clinical classification: Using bending energy to assess the functional significance of nasoseptal deformity in a nonsurgical Austrian sample. PhD Thesis), University of Vienna, Vienna
Bookstein FL (2019) Reflections on a Biometrics of Organismal Form. Biol Theory 14:177–211. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13752-019-00320-y
Bookstein FL (1989) Principal warps: Thin-plate splines and the decomposition of deformations. IEEE Trans Pattern Anal Mach Intell 11:567–585. https://doi.org/10.1109/34.24792
Bookstein FL (1997) Morphometric tools for landmark data: geometry and biology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
Bookstein FL (2018) A course in morphometrics for biologists: Geometry and statistics for studies of organismal form. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
Dryden IL, Mardia KV (2016) Statistical shape analysis: with applications in R. Wiley, Chichester
Taleb NN (2020) Statistical Consequences of Fat Tails: Real World Preasymptotics, Epistemology, and Applications. ArXiv Prepr arXiv:2001.10488
Cleveland WS (1979) Robust locally weighted regression and smoothing scatterplots. J Am Stat Assoc 74:829–836
Katz D, Suchey JM (1986) Age determination of the male os pubis. Am J Phys Anthropol 69:427–435. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.1330690402
Baccino E, Sinfield L, Colomb S et al (2014) The two step procedure (TSP) for the determination of age at death of adult human remains in forensic cases. Forensic Sci Int 244:247–251. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.forsciint.2014.09.005
Dudzik B, Langley NR (2015) Estimating age from the pubic symphysis: A new component-based system. Forensic Sci Int 257:98–105. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.forsciint.2015.07.047
Maass P, Friedling LJ (2016) Scars of parturition? Influences beyond parity. Int J Osteoarchaeol 26:121–131. https://doi.org/10.1002/oa.2402
McArthur TA, Meyer I, Jackson B et al (2016) Parturition pit: the bony imprint of vaginal birth. Skeletal Radiol 45:1263–1267. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00256-016-2418-3
Putschar WGJ (1976) The structure of the human symphysis pubis with special consideration of parturition and its sequelae. Am J Phys Anthropol 45:589–594. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.1330450324
Sutro CJ (1936) The pubic bones and their symphysis. Arch Surg 32:823–841. https://doi.org/10.1001/archsurg.1936.01180230078006
This paper is dedicated to the memory of Dennis E. Slice (1958– 2019), late Professor of Scientific Computing at Florida State University and Honorarprofessor of Anthropology at the University of Vienna, whose mastery of all aspects of forensic investigations like these—not only their morphometrics but also their biology—is already sorely missed among the community he left behind. Thanks to Nicole Grunstra, Stephanie Schnorr and Lumila Menendez for the feedback that allowed us to polish the manuscript and Fernando Navarro Merino for helping with the data collection. A special mention to Martina Traindl-Prohazka for assessing the sample using the Todd method. We also want to thank the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research and all its members as an essential part of the intellectual and personal development needed to accomplish this work. At last, thanks to the NVIDIA Corporation (GPU-Grant).
This research was supported by the Ernst Mach scholarship 56513 from the OeAD (Austrian Agency for International Cooperation in Education and Research) and by a writing-up fellowship from the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research both to GBM. BF was supported by the Austrian Science Fund FWF (Elise Richter grant no. V 826-B).
Conflicts of interest
This work is part of the doctoral dissertation of the first author, Guillermo Bravo Morante, thereby coming under the appropriate intellectual property protections of its class. University of Granada, program of biomedicine: Human evolution. Physical and forensic anthropology. Title of the thesis: “Geometric morphometrics and 3D in physical anthropology, age-at-death estimation”.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Where this material has been presented
ESHE meeting 13–15 September 2018, Faro; Portugal as a poster.
About this article
Cite this article
Bravo Morante, G., Bookstein, F.L., Fischer, B. et al. Correlation of the human pubic symphysis surface with age-at-death: a novel quantitative method based on a bandpass filter. Int J Legal Med (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00414-021-02555-6
- Age-at-death estimation
- Bending energy
- Pubic symphysis
- Bandpass filter
- Geometric morphometrics