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Transition analysis: A validation study with known-age modern American skeletons


  • George R. Milner,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802
    • Department of Anthropology, 409 Carpenter Building, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA
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  • Jesper L. Boldsen

    1. ADBOU, University of Southern Denmark, Lucernemarken 20, DK5260 Odense S, Denmark
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Transition Analysis—a recent skeletal age-estimation procedure (Boldsen et al.: Paleodemography: age distributions from skeletal samples (2002) 73–106)—is evaluated using 252 known-age modern American males and females from the Bass Donated Collection and Mercyhurst forensic cases. The pubic symphysis worked best for estimating age, followed by the sacroiliac joint and cranial sutures. Estimates based on all skeletal characteristics are influenced by the choice of prior distribution, although its effect is dwarfed by both the inaccuracy and imprecision of age estimates. Age intervals are narrowest for young adults, but are surprisingly short in old age as well. When using an informative prior distribution, the greatest uncertainty occurs from the late 40s into the 70s. Transition Analysis estimates do not perform as well as experience-based assessments, indicating the existing procedure is too narrowly focused on commonly used pelvic and cranial structures. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.