Chronology of fusion of the primary and secondary ossification centers in the human sacrum and age estimation in child and adolescent skeletons



Little is known about fusion times of the primary and secondary centers of ossification in the sacrum, particularly from dry bone observations. In this study, the timing of union of these centers was studied in a sample of modern Portuguese skeletons (90 females and 101 males) between the ages of 0 and 30 years, taken from the Lisbon documented skeletal collection. A three-stage scheme was used to assess fusion status between ossification centers as unfused, partially fused and completely fused. Posterior probability tables of age, given a certain stage of fusion, were calculated for most anatomical locations studied using both reference and uniform priors. Partial union of primary centers of ossification was observed from 1 to 8 years of age and partial union of secondary centers of ossification was observed from 15 to 21 years of age. The first primary centers of ossification to complete fusion are the neural arch with the centrum of the fifth sacral vertebrae and the last are the costal element with the centrum of the first sacral vertebra. The annular and sacroiliac epiphyses are the first, among the secondary centers of ossification observed, to complete fusion, after which the lateral margin fuses. This study offers information on timing of fusion of diverse locations in the developing sacrum useful for age estimation of complete or fragmented immature human skeletal remains and fills an important gap in the literature, by adding to previously published times of fusion of primary and secondary ossification centers in this sample. Am J Phys Anthropol 153:214–225, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.