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Estimating body mass from postcranial variables: an evaluation of current equations using a large known-mass sample of modern humans

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Weston,  Darlene A.
Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Elliott, M., Kurki, H., Weston, D. A., & Collard, M. (2016). Estimating body mass from postcranial variables: an evaluation of current equations using a large known-mass sample of modern humans. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 8(4), 689-704. doi:10.1007/s12520-015-0251-6.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002C-3D53-1
Abstract
Many inferences in palaeoanthropology and bioarchaeology rely on estimates of body mass from skeletal material. Body mass estimation is also becoming an area of interest for forensic anthropologists. The most common approach to estimating body mass from the skeleton involves measurements of the postcranium, and a number of equations have been developed for femoral head size and stature plus bi-iliac breadth. These equations have become standard in biological anthropology, but they have rarely been tested on individuals of known mass. In addition, the effects of several assumptions involved in the application of the equations have not been rigorously investigated. Accordingly, this study employed CT scans from a sample of 253 adult modern humans of known body mass to test the accuracy of the most widely used postcranial body mass estimation equations. The results were then used to evaluate several claims concerning the performance of the equations relative to one another. Most of the equations that were tested met the criteria for acceptance as reliable estimators with the male and the combined-sex samples. However, females were not estimated as reliably. In addition, the equations did not always perform consistently or as expected. Overall, our results suggest that estimating body mass with the postcranial equations that are currently available requires more caution than is usually exercised.