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Chovalopoulou, M.;  Valakos, E.;  Nikita, E. Skeletal Sex Estimation Methods. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 19 April 2024).
Chovalopoulou M,  Valakos E,  Nikita E. Skeletal Sex Estimation Methods. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed April 19, 2024.
Chovalopoulou, Maria-Eleni, Efstratios Valakos, Efthymia Nikita. "Skeletal Sex Estimation Methods" Encyclopedia, (accessed April 19, 2024).
Chovalopoulou, M.,  Valakos, E., & Nikita, E. (2022, November 09). Skeletal Sex Estimation Methods. In Encyclopedia.
Chovalopoulou, Maria-Eleni, et al. "Skeletal Sex Estimation Methods." Encyclopedia. Web. 09 November, 2022.
Skeletal Sex Estimation Methods

Documented skeletal collections are essential in forensic and physical anthropology as they provide the means to develop methods for the estimation of various parameters of the biological profile of an individual such as sex, age at death, and stature.

skeletal sex estimation Athens Collection Greece

1. Morphological Sex Estimation Methods

Morphological sex estimation methods have been used on the Athens Collection, focusing on well-defined regions of the pelvis and the skull. The earliest study was by Eliopoulos [1] and its aim was to test whether the standards proposed by the European Workshop of Anthropologists [2], Buikstra and Ubelaker [3], and Brickley and McKinley [4] were appropriate for a modern Greek population. Eliopoulos applied 10 morphological traits for sexing the pelvis and 9 for sexing the skull on 202 individuals from the Athens Collection. Regarding the pelvis, he found that the preauricular sulcus was the most accurate trait (89.1% correct sex classification) and the greater sciatic notch had the lowest accuracy (78.2%). The analysis of the skull traits showed a low accuracy for all traits. The author additionally examined the rates of intra- and inter-observer errors in recording the cranial and pelvic traits and found that 8 out of the 10 pelvic traits and 6 out of the 9 skull traits could be scored with consistency by a single observer. The inter-observer agreement was relatively low for almost all traits, except for the preauricular sulcus and the ventral arc.

2. Metric Sex Estimation Methods

Numerous metric sex estimation methods have been developed using different elements of the Athens Collection, either employing single measurements or multiple dimensions. A great emphasis has been placed on the upper and lower limbs. In 2006, Eliopoulos [1] measured the length of the glenoid fossa, the vertical humeral head diameter, the maximum femoral head diameter, and the bicondylar breadth of the femur in order to differentiate males from females in a sample of 202 individuals. According to his results, only the vertical humeral head diameter and the bicondylar breadth of the femur were significantly dimorphic and led to classification accuracies above 75%. The intra- and inter-observer reliability was over 86%, except for the length of the glenoid fossa, which had an inter-observer agreement of 75.8%.
Focusing on the upper limbs, Koukiasa and colleagues [5] studied the scapulae and clavicles of 107 male and 90 female skeletons from the Athens Collection. The authors obtained seven measurements and found that both bones exhibited a significant degree of sexual dimorphism. The sex estimation accuracy of the discriminant functions ranged between 84.9% and 91.4% and no significant inter- or intra-observer errors of measurement were found.
Charisi and colleagues [6] examined the humerus, ulna, and radius to determine the degree of sexual dimorphism and to develop metric standards for sex estimations. The sample consisted of 204 adult skeletons (111 males and 93 females) from the Athens Collection. The measurements taken included the maximum lengths and epiphyseal widths and followed Martin and Saller [7] and Riclan and Tobias [8]. Their results found higher values among the males compared with the females for all dimensions examined. The bone lengths showed the lowest discriminatory power, but the accuracy rates were over 90% and higher on the right side in all cases, except for the left ulna.
Hand bones have also been used to develop sex estimation methods, given that they are found intact more often than the long bones; thus, they facilitate the application of metric methods. Manolis and colleagues [9] obtained measurements from the metacarpal bones of 151 adult individuals (84 males and 67 females) from the Athens Collection. Their results showed that the male metacarpal diameters were greater than those of the females and there were no significant differences between the sides. The highest correspondence between the true and estimated sex was found in the epiphyses and the percentage of the correct sex classification was very high (83.7–88.1% for the left and 83.8–89.7% for the right metacarpals, respectively).
Κarakostis and colleagues [10] measured the proximal hand phalanges to examine the degree of sexual dimorphism. They studied 661 left and right proximal hand phalanges from 160 adult individuals (86 males and 74 females). The authors found that the male proximal hand phalanges were larger than those of the females and the mediolateral diameter proved to be, generally, more sexually dimorphic than the anteroposterior one.
Focusing on the lower limbs, Anastasopoulou and colleagues [11] explored the sexual dimorphism of the proximal portion of the femur by analyzing the biometric data of the Purkait’s triangle [12] of 203 individuals (112 males and 91 females). The discriminant equations generated from their study had an overall correct classification rate of 78.3%. As far as bilateral asymmetry was concerned, no statistically significant differences were found. In another study by Kiskira and colleagues [13], the two main long bones of the leg, the femur and tibia, were analyzed to determine their appropriateness for a sex assessment. The authors measured the maximum lengths and epiphyseal widths of 200 adult individuals (111 males and 89 females). According to their results, the rate of the correct sex classification ranged from 91.5% for the left femur to 93.4% for the left tibia and the intra- and inter-observer errors were very low.
Similar to hand bones, foot bones are more likely to be found intact in forensic and archaeological contexts because of their quantity as well as their small surface area [14]. Therefore, Mountrakis and colleagues [15] evaluated the presence of sexual dimorphism in the metatarsals of 186 individuals (97 males and 89 females) from the Athens Collection. A total of 7 measurements, after Martin and Saller [7] and Smith [16], were taken from 1595 metatarsal bones. The analysis of bilateral asymmetry revealed no significant differences in the dimensions between the right and left MT-1 and MT-5. In contrast, the MT-2, MT-3, and MT-4 presented statistically significant size differences, mainly in the mediolateral diameters. According to the results, the mean values of the males were higher than those of the females in all cases and the mediolateral width at the midshaft was the most sexually dimorphic dimension. The accuracy of the classification obtained from the metatarsals ranged between 80.5 and 90.1%.
Another study focusing on foot bones was by Peckmann and colleagues [17]. Their goal was to derive discriminant function equations for sex estimations from the calcaneus by measuring 9 dimensions of this element on 198 individuals (103 males and 95 females). Their study showed that all variables were sexually dimorphic and the average accuracy of the sex classification ranged from 70% to 90% for the univariate analyses and 82.9% to 87.5% for the multivariate analyses. The same team also developed discriminant function equations for sex predictions based on nine talar measurements [18]. The authors studied 182 individuals (96 males and 86 females) and their equations showed an average accuracy of the sex classification from 65.2% to 93.4% for the univariate analyses and 90% to 96.5% for the multivariate analyses.
A final interesting study that focused on the long bones of the upper and lower limbs was by Bertsatos and colleagues [19], who introduced an automated method for estimating sex based on the diaphyseal cross-sectional geometric properties. The maximum cross-validated classification reached 94.8% for the femur, 94.7% for the tibia, and 97.3% for the humerus.
Concerning other postcranial elements, Garoufi and colleagues [20] evaluated the utility in sex estimations of three easily identifiable vertebrae (T1, T12, and L1), utilizing two modern European populations: a Greek one (Athens Collection) and a Danish one. According to the results, T1 was the best sex diagnostic vertebra and reached a cross-validated accuracy of almost 90%.
The cranium is one of the most commonly employed anatomical areas for morphological sex estimations, as described above. Chovalopoulou and Bertsatos [21] determined the use of the foramen magnum and occipital condyles for sex estimations. Their sample consisted of 154 adult crania (77 males and 77 females) from the Athens Collection. According to the results, the occipital condyles provided higher correct sex classification rates than the foramen magnum and the percentage of correct sex classifications when using a combination of the occipital condyle variables was 74%.
In addition, Chovalopoulou et al. [22] produced sex-predicting logistic regression equations based on the Athens Collection and subsequently applied them to crania from archaeological Greek assemblages. This exercise yielded sex classification accuracies greater than 70% in the sphenoid, maxilla, and overall cranium, suggesting that modern standards may be applied to archaeological populations.
Being resistant to postmortem destruction and fragmentation, teeth have been used for sex estimations in many studies [23][24][25][26][27]. In the Greek population, Eleni Zorba has dealt extensively with teeth. More specifically, Zorba and colleagues [28] examined the degree of sexual dimorphism in the permanent teeth of 133 individuals (70 males and 63 females) from the Athens Collection. They measured the mesiodistal and buccolingual crown as well as the cervical diameters of the maxillary and mandibular teeth and concluded that the canines were the most dimorphic teeth, followed by the first premolars, maxillary second premolars, and mandibular second molars.
Subsequently, Zorba and colleagues [29] evaluated the sex estimation potential of the molar crown and cervical diagonal diameters. They examined 344 permanent molars from 107 individuals (53 males and 54 females) from the Athens Collection and found that the most dimorphic molars were the maxillary second molar and the mandibular second and first molars. The accuracy rates were higher for he cervical than the crown diagonal diameters; for the total sample, the classification accuracy was 93%. In 2013, Zorba and colleagues [30] conducted a more in-depth investigation into the sex discriminatory potential of molars, examining 101 individuals (51 males and 50 females) from the Athens Collection. The authors confirmed that the sex classification accuracy of the diagonal diameters was higher than that of the traditional mesiodistal and buccolingual diameters.
Finally, Zorba and colleagues [31] tested the existence of sexual dimorphism in the root length of single-rooted teeth. Roots are not affected by wear and root measurements require less experience than most crown measurements [32]. The sample consisted of 102 individuals (58 males and 44 females). The maxillary teeth were more dimorphic than the mandibular ones. Moreover, the buccal and mesial measurements appeared to be more dimorphic, followed by the distal and lingual measurements. The correct sex classification rates ranged from 58.6% to 90.0%.

3. Geometric Morphometrics Methods

Most of the research on sex estimations using GMs in the Athens Collection has been carried out on the skull. Chovalopoulou and colleagues [33][34][35] tested the workability and validity of GMs when applied to the sexually dimorphic characteristics of the human skeleton. For this purpose, they examined certain anatomical regions of the cranium (palate, cranial base, craniofacial form, and vault), using 80 landmarks on the outer surface of the skull of 176 adult individuals (94 males and 82 females). According to the results, there were statistically significant shape differences between the sexes. The highest correct classification rate was obtained from the craniofacial region (83.1%) and the lowest from the palate (68.9%). In a more in-depth analysis of the same ectocranial landmarks, Bertsatos and colleagues [36] explored a novel approach to identify those distance and angle measurements that could be most effectively used in sex assessments. The authors reported 13 craniometric distances with a classification accuracy over 85% and 7 angles with a classification accuracy over 78% as well as certain multivariate combinations yielding sex classification accuracies of over 95%. Furthermore, utilizing a few of the 80 landmarks, Bertsatos and colleagues [37] evaluated the reliability of 3D-ID software (accessed on 13 May 2018) to identify the ancestry and sex of 158 test subjects from the Athens Collection. They concluded that the software exhibited a moderate reliability in the ancestry estimation and an adequate reliability in the sex estimation.


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