The utility of carpals for sex assessment: A preliminary study



Sex assessment is key when investigating human remains either from medicolegal contexts or archaeological sites. Sex is usually assessed by examination of the skull and pelvis, but this may not always be possible if skeletal material is fragmented or incomplete. The present study investigated the potential for using carpals to assess sex, utilizing 100 individuals of known-sex from the Christ Church, Spitalfields Collection, curated at the Natural History Museum (London). A series of newly-defined measurements are applied to all eight carpals. Inter and intraobserver error tests show that all measurements are satisfactorily reproduced by the first author and another observer. Paired t-tests to investigate side asymmetry of the carpals reveal that some, but not all, measurements are consistently larger on the right hand side than the left. Independent t-tests confirm that all carpals are sexually dimorphic. Univariate measurements produce accuracy levels that range from 64.6 to 84.7%. Stepwise discriminant function analysis, devised separately for left and right sides, provides reliable methods for assessing sex from single and multiple carpals, with an accuracy range of 71.7 to 88.6%. All functions derived are tested for accuracy on a sample of 20 additional individuals from the Christ Church, Spitalfields Collection. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2008. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.