The pubic symphysis is widely used in age estimation for the adult skeleton. Standard practice requires the visual comparison of surface morphology against criteria representing predefined phases and the estimation of case-specific age from an age range associated with the chosen phase. Known problems of method and observer error necessitate alternative tools to quantify age-related change in pubic morphology. This paper presents an objective, fully quantitative method for estimating age-at-death from the skeleton, which exploits a variance-based score of surface complexity computed from vertices obtained from a scanner sampling the pubic symphysis. For laser scans from 41 modern American male skeletons, this method produces results that are significantly associated with known age-at-death (RMSE = 17.15 years). Chronological age is predicted, therefore, equally well, if not, better, with this robust, objective, and fully quantitative method than with prevailing phase-aging systems. This method contributes to forensic casework by responding to medico-legal expectations for evidence standards.
Named "one of the top new forensic papers published" by Forensic News!