Journal Article

Age estimation of human skeletal remains: A comparison of methods from Lauchheim, Germany [AAPA Abstracts]

Weise, S., Boldsen, J. L., Buckberry, J. L., Doppler, S., Gampe, J., Grupe, G., Hotz, G., Larsen, C. S., Kemkes-Grottenthaler, A., Prince, D., Vaupel, J. W., Wahl, H.-W., Wittwer-Backofen, U.
American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 123:S38, 205 (2004)


A wide variety of methods for estimation of age-at-death from human skeletal remains are now available, reflecting a long history of interest in the subject. These methods rely largely on morphological changes in the maturing dentition and skeleton. The diversity of methods results in a diversity of reliability, rendering comparisons between methods insecure. The present study applies various methods of adult age estimation by independent investigators (the coauthors of this study) in order to document and interpret reliability and applicability. Each observer applied a specific age estimation method to the same subsample (n=121) of a large early medieval (A.D. 450-660 /680) cemetery at Lauchheim, Germany (n=1370). Previously, the tooth cementum annulation and Complex Method employing a range of methods recommended by the European Anthropological Association were used (Kunter, Wittwer-Backofen). For the present study, the following methods were used and compared to the results of the previous study: transitional method (Boldsen), auricular surface (Buckberry), suture closure (Larsen, Wahl), tooth root translucency (Prince), and osteon density (Doppler, Grupe). In addition, two observers (Hotz, Kemkes-Grottenthaler) applied a combined spectrum of different methods. The results of this study reveal a general consistency of adult age-at-death, but with a high degree of variation. The study suggests that use of multiple age indicators is important for reconstruction of demographic profiles in archaeological settings.
Keywords: age at death
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.