The assessment of sex in cremated individuals: Some cautionary notes

Tim J. U. Thompson

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    Identification of cremated bodies is problematic due to the effect of burning on the tissues of the body. Since hard tissues are altered by burning, it is likely that identification techniques that rely on these tissues will also be affected. The purpose of this study is to examine how heat-induced changes in the hard tissues of the body influence the results of anthropological methods of analysis. Twelve sheep Os coxae were burned in a fire-brick furnace. Eight measurements were taken from the sheep Os coxae before and after burning. Heat-induced shrinkage was calculated as a percentage. The significance of the differences between the measurements taken before and after burning was assessed statistically (Wilcoxon Signed Rank). The alternative hypothesis, that the difference was significant, was accepted. The influence of heat-induced shrinkage on sex assessment techniques was examined algebraically, then demonstrated with metric methods of sex assessment. The conclusion reached was that uniform shrinkage of the pelvis would not affect metric sex determination techniques, but that differential shrinkage of the variables that comprise the metric sex assessment technique can result in misclassification of male cremated pelves as female, and vice versa.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)49-56
    JournalJournal of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2002

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