Neck vertebrae can potentially determine sex to aid body identification

Published on 2 September 2019

Cervical vertebrae (found in the neck) have potential to be used as a biological sex determinant.

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Research published by the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science has determined that cervical vertebrae (found in the neck) have potential to be used as a biological sex determinant in a White Scottish population.

Identifying the biological sex of remains is an important process in archaeological and forensic settings. The study evaluated the presence of sexual dimorphism (differences between male and females) and found that there is sufficient variation in the skeletal morphology to potentially use measurements of the vertebrae to distinguish sex.

Dr Lucina Hackman, who led the project, said, ‘This research will add to the methods available to forensic anthropologists and archaeologists when assessing whether an individual was female or male in life.’

The study measured three traits on the vertebrae, the maximum vertebral body height (CHT), the maximum anterior-posterior diameter (CHT) and the maximum transverse diameter (CAP). The study found that sex estimation from a single vertebra gave an accuracy range of 77.3%-100% and that the second cervical vertebrae gave the highest accuracy (100%). A larger study involving more age groups would be used to validate the use of this method for identification.

The study was published in Forensic Science International.

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