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A Four-Stage Method of Age at Death Estimation for Use in the Subadult Rib Cortex


  • An earlier version of this research was presented at the 70th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, March 28–31, 2001, in Kansas City, MO.

  • Research was supported by a Grant in Aid of Research from Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society.

Additional information and reprint requests:
Margaret Streeter, Ph.D.
Department of Anthropology
115 Hemingway WSC
Boise State University
Boise, ID 83725


Abstract:  Age estimation in the subadult skeleton can be rather precise when the epiphyses and dentition are present, but incomplete or commingled remains still present a challenge. Histomorphometric age-at-death estimation methods developed for use on adults are based on the age-associated accumulation of osteons. In the growing skeleton, there is a poor correlation between osteon numbers and age until the latter half of the second decade. As a result, there has been no histological aging method for use in subadults. The analysis of the rib cortex of 72 subadults ranging in age from 2 to 21 years has identified a series of developmental changes in the bone microstructure that can be used to estimate age. This qualitative method utilizes the systematic changes in rib cortical morphology to classify ribs into one of four age phases. This method can be applied to immature skeletons in forensic, archaeological, and paleontological contexts.