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Georgia Journal of Science

Article Title

THE ANALYSIS OF INTEROBSERVER ERROR TO TEST THE LIMITATIONS OF AVAILABLE METHODS IN ANCESTRY AND SEX ESTIMATION OF TEACHING SKULLS

Abstract

The teaching skulls at Kennesaw State University and the University of West Georgia have minimal information about their specific ancestry or sex. Available methods used in bioarchaeological analysis and forensic identification can only provide an estimation of ancestry and sex. The use of these methods incurs a degree of uncertainty because of documented interobserver error that has been attributed to ambiguous anatomical landmark descriptions and experience level of the measurer. If the available methods are unable to determine the estimated sex or ancestry of a teaching skull, then instructional utility for students and research becomes limited. The interobserver error of two morphological methods, metric ancestry estimation (N=16) and non-metric sex estimation (N=7), were analyzed to test the limitations of each. Twenty-eight craniometric measurements were taken on sixteen teaching skulls by two undergraduate observers with basic experience. The non-metric method used a scale (1-5) to evaluate five morphological features of the skull by three observers, two undergraduates and a professor. The mean differences with significance were lower than anticipated, but where significance occurred, an anatomical pattern related to the eye orbit was identified. The mean difference in metric measurements of Orbital Breadth were significantly different between observers (t=-3.67, p<0.01/ t=-4.11, p<0.01), as was the mean difference in Interorbital Breadth measurements (t=2.573, p<.01). Non-metric assessment of the Supraorbital Margin also proved to be significantly different between observers (p=0.007, p<.01). These inconsistencies in method application require further study because the biological profile is critical to identifying human remains in forensics and bioarchaeology. Methodological improvement could increase forensic identification and enable bioarchaeological analysis to further examine patterns of human variations in past populations.

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