Human Biology Open Access Pre-Prints

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Reliable age-at-death estimates from the adult skeleton is of fundamental importance in forensic anthropology, as it contributes to the identity parameters used in a medico-legal death investigation. However, reliable estimates are made difficult by the fact that many traditional aging methods are dependent upon a set of population-specific criteria derived from individuals of European and African descent. The absence of information on the potential differences in the aging patterns of underrepresented, especially Hispanic populations, may hinder our efforts to produce useful age-at-death estimates. In response to these concerns, this study explores the utility of currently available aging techniques, and explores the need, if any, for population- specific aging method among Hispanic groups. The current study obtained data from two skeletal collections representing modern individuals of Mexican and Puerto Rican origin. Five newly developed computational-shape based techniques utilizing 3D laser scans of the pubic symphysis and one traditional bone-to-phase technique were examined. A validation test of all computational and traditional methods was implemented, and new population-specific equations using the computational algorithms were generated and tested against a sub-sample. Estimated mean ages from the traditional and computational techniques were compared in order to offer practical recommendations for age estimation on cases of Hispanic identity and, in particular, cases presumed to be of Mexican or Puerto Rican individuals. Results from this study suggest that traditional and computational aging techniques applied to the pubic symphysis perform the best with individuals within 35-45 years of age. Levels of bias and inaccuracy increase as chronological age increases, with overestimation of individuals under 35 years of age, and underestimation of individuals over 45 years of age. New regression models provided error rates comparable, and in some occasions, outperformed the original computational models developed on White American males, but age estimates did not significantly improve. This study has shown that population specific models do not necessarily improve age estimates in Hispanic samples. Results do suggest that computational methods can ultimately outperform the Suchey Brooks method and provide improvement in objectivity when estimating age-at-death in Hispanic samples.