Demonstrating the empirical effect of population specificity of anthropological standards in a contemporary Australian population

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The ability to differentiate individuals based on their biological sex is essential for the creation of an accurate anthropological assessment; it is therefore crucial that the standards that facilitate this are likewise accurate. Given the relative paucity of population-specific anthropological standards formulated specifically for application in the contemporary Australian population, forensic anthropological assessments have historically relied on the application of established methods developed using population geographically and/or temporally disparate. The aim of the present paper is, therefore, to assess the accuracy and reliability of established cranial sex estimation methods, developed from geographically distinct populations, as applied to the contemporary Australian population. Comparison between the original stated accuracy and sex bias values (where applicable) and those achieved after application to the Australian population provides insight into the importance of having anthropological standards optimised for application in specific jurisdictions. The sample analysed comprised computed tomographic (CT) cranial scans of 771 (385 female and 386 male) individuals collected from five Australian states/territories. Cranial CT scans were visualised as three-dimensional volume-rendered reconstructions using OsiriX®. On each cranium, 76 cranial landmarks were acquired, and 36 linear inter-landmark measurements were calculated using MorphDB. A total of 35 predictive models taken from Giles and Elliot (1963), Iscan et al. (1995), Ogawa et al. (2013), Steyn and İşcan (1998) and Kranioti et al. (2008) were tested. Application to the Australian population resulted in an average decrease in accuracy of 21.2%, with an associated sex bias range between − 64.0 and 99.7% (average sex bias value of 29.6%), relative to the original studies. The present investigation has highlighted the inherent inaccuracies of applying models derived from geographically and/or temporally disparate populations. It is, therefore, imperative that statistical models developed from a population consistent with the decedent be used for the estimation of sex in forensic casework.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-545
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Legal Medicine
Issue number2
Early online date3 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


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