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The Effect of Vertebral Numerical Variation on Anatomical Stature Estimates

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Most humans possess 24 presacral vertebrae composed of seven cervicals, 12 thoracics, and five lumbars. However, variation from this standard pattern exists. The purpose of this study was to test the effect of congenital vertebral numerical variation on anatomical stature estimates and to recommend appropriate procedures when such variation occurs. Our sample consists of 41 individuals with unusual vertebral count patterns and known cadaveric statures from the Smithsonian’s Terry Collection. Raxter et al. published a revised Fully anatomical technique in 2006 and we used this to estimate living stature. Based on our results, we recommend using the standard anatomical technique to reconstruct stature, regardless of vertebral pattern. However, when an individual possesses six sacral segments together with a normal number of presacral vertebrae, we recommend the addition of a slight correction factor of 1.3 cm or 0.8% of estimated stature.
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Keywords: anatomical method; forensic anthropology; forensic science; skeletal measurement; stature estimation; vertebrae

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Anthropology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL 33620. 2: Center for Functional Anatomy and Evolution, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205.

Publication date: March 1, 2010

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