A new method for estimating age-at-death from the first rib

Elizabeth A. Digangi, Jonathan D. Bethard, Erin H. Kimmerle, Lyle W Konigsberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A new method for estimating adult age-at-death from the first rib was developed as a modification of the Kunos et al. (Am J Phys Anthropol 110 (1999) 303-323) method. Data were collected on three aspects of the first rib (costal face, rib head, and tubercle facet) for 470 known-age males of Balkan ancestry collected as evidence during investigations conducted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Ages-at-death range from 12 to 90 years (mean of 47.7 years). Several variables were extracted from the original study utilizing all three skeletal aspects of the first rib. This list was modified to 11 variables as preliminary tests on seriations of the samples were undertaken. A cumulative probit model with age measured on a log scale was used to calculate the mean and standard deviation of the ages-of-transition for each component. Multivariate analysis of the three components was also performed. The lowest correlation (r = 0.079, controlling for age) was between the geometric shape of the costal face and the surface texture of the tubercle facet. Assuming a correlation of zero, these two traits were used to calculate the highest posterior density regions for estimating individual ages-at-death. Age-at-death estimates generated from 50 and 95% posterior density regions indicate that this method captures age-related change reaching the ninth decade. The Bayesian statistical approach used here produced a valuable and promising new method for estimating age-at-death. Additional research is necessary to determine if these highest posterior density regions produce results highly correlated with age in other samples and its applicability to females.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)164-176
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2009


  • Age estimation
  • Bioarcheology; transition analysis
  • Forensic anthropology
  • Paleodemography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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