Odontometric sex discrimination in the herculaneum sample (79 AD, Naples, Italy), with application to juveniles



Sex determination of subadult skeletal remains with satisfactory accuracy represents one of the most important limitations of archaeological research and forensic practice. Teeth are one of the most durable physical elements of an individual that remain after death, and constitute a potential source of information about the biological sex of that individual. This study was based on the skeletal remains of 117 individuals from the ancient city of Herculaneum (Naples, Italy), victims of the eruption of the nearby volcano Vesuvius on 24/25 August, 79 AD. It has been possible to develop discriminant function formulae based on dental dimensions of adult individuals whose sex had previously been determined based on descriptive osteologic criteria. These formulae were subsequently applied to the permanent dentitions of immature individuals of the same population in order to estimate their sex. The results show that the canine is the tooth with the greatest sex dimorphism in adults, providing percentages of correct assignment of sex between 76.5% and 100% depending on the dimension used. Of the 30 subadult individuals in the target sample, estimation of sex was possible for 22 individuals. Sex assignments matched those determined from descriptive characteristics of the ilia and mandible in 73.33% of the cases. The results provide some optimism that this method may be applicable to juvenile archaeological samples. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.