An Evaluation of Determination of Handedness Using Standard Osteological Measurements*


  • *

    Presented at the 59th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in San Antonio, TX, February 2007.

Additional information and reprint requests:
Marie Elaine Danforth, Ph.D.
Department of Anthropology and Sociology
University of Southern Mississippi
118 College Dr, #5074
Hattiesburg, MS 39406


Abstract:  Numerous studies have assessed side dominance assuming arm bones on the side of handedness will be larger, but concerns over sample size or replicability of measurements usually emerged. Attempting to improve upon these limitations, this investigation analyzes patterns of side difference for standard length and transverse dimensions of the scapula, clavicle, humerus, ulna, and radius for 137 individuals of known handedness. The results showed that with few exceptions, the right side of the skeleton was consistently larger in most individuals regardless of side dominance. Combinations of other measurements previously suggested to be indicative of handedness as well as the use of discriminant analysis also failed to provide reliable estimators. These findings are likely related to the fact that activities of modern individuals are generally not sufficiently unilateral in their stresses to cause asymmetrical development in the arm bones. Therefore, it is recommended that other means be developed to assess side dominance.