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Keywords:

  • Convex hull;
  • Shape coordinates;
  • Ilium

Abstract

Whether human fetal skeletal remains exhibit sexual dimorphism has been the subject of considerable debate. Most attention in this debate has focused on the greater sciatic notch of the ilium, since it is a gross morphological characteristic with known sex differences in the adult and is easily seen in fetal skeletal remains. Unfortunately, previous traditional morphometric analyses of the fetal sciatic notch have led to ambiguous results. The purpose of this study is to determine whether differences between the sexes can be discerned when modern morphometric techniques are applied to the fetal sciatic notch. Photographs of the ventral side of 133 fetal ilia of known age and sex from the Trotter Collection of Washington University were digitized, and the trace coordinates used for all subsequent analyses. The results of the analysis demonstrate that there is significant sexual dimorphism in the anterior to posterior location of the maximum depth of the sciatic notch, but that the depth of the notch itself is not dimorphic. While there is significant sexual dimorphism in the shape of the sciatic notch, the amount of overlap between males and females is too great for the sciatic notch to be used as a reliable indicator of sex. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.