Anthropological Analysis of the Lower Extremity

Determining Sex, Race, and Stature From Skeletal Elements
  • Nancy E. Tatarek
  • Paul W. Sciulli
Part of the Forensic Science and Medicine book series (FSM)


Human remains in an advanced state of decomposition, fragmentation or incineration, or remains that are comingled often present challenges for coroners, pathologists, and law enforcement agencies. These agencies often turn to anthropologists for their expertise in the analysis of human remains. For a variety of reasons—including coverage with clothing and footwear, the amount of tissue, and the large size of the bones—the leg and foot are frequently preserved and recovered in even the most extreme circumstances (e.g., from a shark’s stomach) (1). The human lower extremity possesses at least 30 skeletal elements, including sesamoid bones. If these remains are analyzed thoroughly, they can be used to assess an individual’s age at death, sex, ancestry, and stature. This baseline biological information, known by physical anthropologists as the biological profile, can narrow the search for missing persons. Methods of determining the age at death are discussed elsewhere in this volume. The focus of this chapter is on the remaining three aspects of the biological profile: sex, ancestry, and stature. Some anthropologists complete the biological profile in the following order: ancestry, sex, age, and stature, whereas others prefer the order of age, sex, ancestry, and stature. In all probability, most analyses occur in an integrated manner as the experienced anthropologist examines a set of skeletal remains. In this chapter, both morphological and metric methods of analysis are addressed and problems and pitfalls associated with some of the approaches are discussed.


Skeletal Element Skeletal Remains Bone Length Tibia Length Forensic Anthropology 
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Copyright information

© Humana Press Inc., Totowa, NJ 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy E. Tatarek
    • 1
  • Paul W. Sciulli
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyOhio UniversityAthens
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyThe Ohio State UniversityColumbus

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