Determination of Sex

The analytical stage of forensic anthropology involves answering questions that lead to identification of the individual whose remains are being examined. The questions asked in developing a biological or demographic profile for an individual include the following:

• What is the ancestry of the individual?
• What is the sex of the individual?
• What is the age of the individual?
• What is the stature of the individual?
• What pathologies did the individual have?
• What traumas did the individual have?

The sex of an individual is determined, when soft tissue is not present, by a number of skeletal indicators. Of course, the more indicators used to determine sex, the more accurate the results. However, a forensic anthropologist is analytically limited by the bones present and the condition of the bones.

We will look at several features of the pelvis, skull, and limb bones in determining sex. What we will do in this activity for sex determination does not cover all skeletal indicators of sex, but it will give you a good idea of how a forensic anthropologist determines the sex of an individual using the bones. The most accurate assessment of sex can be derived from the complete skeleton, followed in accuracy by the pelvis, skull, and then individual postcranial bones.

Remember that sex determination is very difficult for sub-adults because those features and characteristics are not fully formed, thus giving a more gracile appearance. Unless specified, the elements in the photos are Caucasoid.

The measurements used for this activity are not inclusive of all the measurements that are normally collected by anthropologists from complete specimens. The measurements used here are introduced and discussed in your text (Byers, 2011).

Compare the elements (and/or measurements) in the activities below to the known pelvic bones and skulls in the reference materials. Based on the sex model, determine the sex for each specimen.

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