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Scientists from the University of Oviedo and CENIEH have developed a new method to find out the sex of human fossils. The results of the study have been published in the journal Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.
Thanks to this study, learn more about the paleobiology of human populations of the past, and opens the possibility of using the same methodology to find out what the representatives of the genus Homo of species different from ours were like. Furthermore, it will be applicable in forensic contexts for the identification of individuals, say the authors.
Typically, when isolated human fossils are recovered from sites it is very difficult to assign them sex. In the case of foot fossils, mathematical formulas based on current populations are usually used, which allow an approximation to the sex of fossil individuals based on the larger size of men, in a generalized way, compared to women within the same population.
As explained Adrian Pablos, a researcher at CENIEH and one of the authors, "the problem is that there are large differences between populations that make the results unreliable when these formulas are applied to a population other than the one used to calculate these mathematical formulas."
In this study, various discriminant formulas have been calculated using bones of the foot, such as the talus and the calcaneus. To make the method more robust, these formulas have been tested with individuals from the same population from which the formulas are derived, and they have also been contrasted with formulas and data from other different populations.
"Later these equations have been returned to test with fossils of known sex for reliability. In those cases in which the reliability percentage was high enough, these formulas have been applied to fossils of unknown sex, thus offering greater robustness to the method ”comments Carmen Alonso-Llamazares, researcher at the University of Oviedo and first author of the study.
Carmen Alonso-Llamazares, Adrián Pablos. "Sex estimation from the calcaneus and talus using discriminant function analysis and its possible application in fossil remains". Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences (2019).