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Keywords:

  • forensic science;
  • ear;
  • earmark;
  • identification;
  • code number;
  • multivariate beta distribution

Abstract:  Although several papers have recently been devoted to establishing the validity of identification using the ear, this part of the human body still remains underexploited in forensic science. The perfect overlap of two images of the same ear is not really possible, but photographs of the ears as a reliable means of inferring the identity of an individual are poorly treated in the literature. In this study, we illustrate a simple, reproducible method, which divides the photograph of an ear into four parts—helix, antihelix, concha, and lobe—by means of a suitable grid of four straight lines. Although the division does not follow exact anatomical features, their edges do join anatomical points which are more easily identifiable. Measurement of certain areas of these parts can be combined to produce a code allowing personal identification. This method produces false-positive identifications of <0.2%. Last, the repeatability and reproducibility aspects of the method are tested.