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The University of Queensland






The Scientific basis of Stature Estimation


Stature is one of the physical characteristics used to assist in the identification of unknown human skeletal remains.


The estimation of the antemortem living stature from postmortem remains is dependent on the high correlation  that exists between certain bone dimensions (especially the length of the lower limb bones)  with body height.


A large number of studies have been carried out to develop methods of estimating stature with reasonable accuracy.


The varying relationships of bone dimensions to living stature between the sexes and and between different population groups, has meant that estimation methods that have been developed and applied for one sex or population group should not be used on other sex or population groups.


Even within one population group, the relationship of bone size to body stature varies with age and hence corrections must be made to the estimated stature to allow for this age variation.



The variability of living stature measurements


Use of different techniques of measurement and interobserver variability will result in variation in the stature measurements recorded for a particular individual eg driving licenses, army records etc.


There is also observable diurnal variation in the total stature of an individual due to variation in width of the intervertebral discs associated with compression or relaxation of the discs with posture ie when standing or sitting erect or lying down.



The prime focus of stature estimation from the skeleton are the limb bones, especially those of the lower limb.  Regression formulae have been developed that relate the length of one or more of these bones to living stature. (Trotter & Gleser 1952, 1958, 1977)



Estimation of stature in Juvenile Populations


When dealing with juvenile skeletonised remains, often only the diaphyses of the incompletely developed bones are recovered. Hence juvenile stature estimations may be based on the total bone length (if diaphyses are recovered complete, partially fused or undisplaced), or on the diaphysial length only, if the epiphyses are unrecovered or unidentifiable. (Himes et al 1977)


The increase in the variability of the juvenile skeleton during puberty leads to less reliable estimates of stature within these age groups.



Estimation of Stature from fragmentary remains.


Stature estimates from long bone fragments are based on the relationship of set components of a long bone to the total bone length (and hence to body stature). The maximum bone length is estimated from the fragment, and then this estimate is inserted into the relevant stature estimation formula. (Steele 1970, Simmons et al 1990)



The effects of the Secular Trend on Stature estimation formulae.


Over the past 1-2 centuries, there has been a steady increase in the average stature of living populations due to the influence of improved social, nutritional and health factors. (Bock & Sykes 1989)These improvements have meant that an increasing proportion of the population group is achieving the full growth potential of individuals within the group. This has been matched by an increasing rate of maturation of the juveniles within the group, so that puberty is being achieved at an earlier age than ever before. This is evidenced by the decreasing age of menarche within female juvenile populations.





Bock RD & Sykes RC. 1989 “Evidence for continuing secular increase in height within families in the United States”. Amer. J. Human Biology. 1(2):143-148.


Boldsen J. 1984 "A Statistical Evaluation of the Basis for Predicting Stature from Lengths of Long Bones in European Populations." Amer J Phys Anthrop 65:305-311.


Galloway A. 1988 "Estimating Actual Height in the Older Individual." J For Sci 33:126-136.


Himes J.H., Yarbrough D.C., & R. Martorell 1977 "Estimation of Stature in Children from Radiographically Determined Metacarpal Length." J For Sci 22:452-456.


Musgrave J.H. & N.K. Harneja. 1978 "The Estimation of Adult Bone Stature from Metacarpal Bone Length." Am J Phys Anthrop 48:113-119.


Shitai M. 1983 “Estimation of Stature by Long Bones of Chinese Male Adults in South China.” Acta Anthrop Sinica, 2:80-85.


Simmons Tal, Jantz RL, & Bass WM 1990 “Stature Estimation from fragmentary femora; revision of the Steele Method. JFS 35(3):628-636.


Steele DG 1970 “Estimation of Stature from fragments of long limb bones”. In Personal Identification in Mass Disasters. TD Stewart (ed), Smithsonian Institute.


Stevenson P.H. 1929 "On Racial Differences in Stature Long Bone Regression Formulae, with special reference to Stature Reconstruction Formulae for the Chinese." Biom 21:303-318.


Telkka A., Palkama A., & P. Virtama 1962 "Prediction of Stature from Radiographs of Long Bones in Children. J For Sci 7:474-479.


Trotter M. & G.C. Gleser 1952 "Estimation of Stature from Long Bones of American Whites and Negroes." Amer J Phys Anthrop 10:463-514.


Trotter M. & G.C. Gleser 1958 "A Re-evaluation of Estimation of Stature based on Measurements of Stature taken during Life and of Long Bones after Death." Amer J Phys Anthrop 16:79-123.


Trotter M. & G.C. Gleser 1977 "Corrigenda to: "Estimation of Stature from Long Bones of American Whites and Negroes." Amer J Phys Anthrop 47:355-356.