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Osteoware: Standardized Skeletal Documentation Software

Osteoware: Standardized Skeletal Documentation Software

The Age and Sex Module

The Osteoware Age and Sex module contains entry points for an array of subadult and adult age at death and sex estimation observations organized into four data entry screens. Each screen contains check boxes or blank fields to prompt the user to enter data when preservation allows; leaving a data field empty indicates the trait is not observable. Expansion beyond the Buikstra and Ubelaker (1994) “Standards”, such as sternal rib end morphology (Iscan et al., 1984; 1985), are provided to improve overall data coverage.

Progression of age-related morphological change at the sternal rib end

  • Contains an array of Age and Sex estimation traits.
  • Check boxes and data fields prompt users to enter data.
  • Image drop-downs provide easy reference to sex standards.
  • Expansions beyond Buikstra and Ubelaker “Standards”.
  • Prompt messages appear when summary estimations are left blank.

Note: Subadult osteometrics used in age estimation are recorded in the Postcranial Metrics module, and dental development is recorded in the Dental Inventory/Development/Pathology module. Age related degenerative change (e.g. arthritis and osteoporosis) is recorded in the Pathology module. However, a large text field is provided on the last entry screen for entering detailed comments on these additional methods, as well as the rational for the final estimations.

Postcranial epiphyses

The “Standards” protocol is modified by recording unilateral instead of bilateral degree of union; the side with the greatest degree of union is scored from 0-2. If there is significant asymmetry detailed notes can be entered into the Comments field on the last data entry screen.

The Postcranial Epiphyses data entry screen.

1st metatarsal scored as open (0) on the proximal end, and as partial union (1) on the distal end. Note that 1st metatarsal epiphysis data, and many other bones, must be recorded in the comments field.

Cranial Sutures

Scoring the degree of cranial suture closure uses the 0-3 progressive scale over a 1 cm length at the cranial landmark indicated, except for the palatal sutures which are recorded over their entire length. Note that several early closing synchondroses (turquoise boxes) are scored using the 0-2 postcranial epiphysis scale.


Cranial and pelvic sex and age indicators are scored using the published methods recommended in the “Standards”, such as Brooks and Suchey (1990). When the cranial morphology boxes are clicked, the reference illustrations are displayed with scores ranging between 1 to 5, with 1 indicating clearly female and 5 are clearly male. Sternal rib end morphology has been added (Iscan et al.,1984,1985).


The summary screen records overall age and sex assessment. Broad categories of indeterminate and unknown age are useful for incomplete and/or poorly preserved remains. For sex, ambiguous is used when an individual shows a mix of male and female characteristics, but indeterminate is for cases where too little information is preserved for assessment. Juveniles who do not display morphological changes to the skeletal sex traits should be scored as indeterminate.

The Comments text box is provided for entering detailed comments on age and sex assessments involving data collected in this module, as well as pertinent data from other modules, such as dental development. It is recommended that users return to the Summary screen to revise the summary age and sex, as well as the minimum/maximum age estimations, when additional data is uncovered. This is important because aggregate statistical analyses involving age and sex will be accomplished through database queries on these summary categories.

The Age and Sex module Summary screen.


Brooks S, Suchey JM. Skeletal age determination based on the os pubis: A comparison of the Acsádi-Nemeskéri and Suchey-Brooks methods. Human Evolution 1990;5:227–38.

Buikstra, J.E. and D.H. Ubelaker. Standards for Data Collection From the Human Skeletal Remains. Arkansas Archaeological Survey Research Series No. 44. Arkansas Archaeological Survey: Fayetteville, 1994.

Iscan MY, Loth SR, Wright RK. Age estimation from the rib by phase analysis: White males. J Forensic Sci 1984;29:1094–104.

Iscan MY, Loth SR, Wright RK. Age estimation from the rib by phase analysis: White females. J Forensic Sci 1985;30:853–63.