Bioarchaeology of the Near East, 10:1-25 (2016)

Metric sex estimation of ancient Egyptian skeletal remains
Part I: Testing of published methods

Emily J. Marlow

KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology,
The University of Manchester,
Stopford Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PT, UK

Abstract: This paper is the first of two that explore sex estimation based on metric measurements of ancient Egyptian human skeletons. Use of measurement-based sex estimation methods is often essential when skeletal remains are fragmentary; however, metric techniques are prone to error as a result of several biases, notably population differences in body size and skeletal proportions. In addition, many commonly used metric equations, created using “modern” (c. 19th and 20th century) population samples, have not been validated for use with ancient Egyptians, and few population-specific equations exist. The study sample consists of 318 adult individuals, each represented by either a complete skeleton (n=162) or an isolated cranium (n=156). The majority of individuals date to Old Kingdom (n=106) or Late Period (n=154) Giza. In addition, 43 individuals date to Predynastic Period Keneh, 13 individuals to Middle Kingdom Sheikh Farag, and two individuals to Ramesside Period Thebes. The sex of each individual was estimated using standard morphological methods. A total of 63 skeletal dimensions, or as many as it was possible to obtain, were measured for each individual in the sample. Testing of 12 “modern” metric sex estimation methods revealed total weighted accuracy rates as low as 30-40%; many of the methods were exceptionally poor at estimating the sex of males. Population-specific metric equations created by other researchers produced total accuracy rates ranging from 78-100% when tested on the study sample. The results of this study, the first to test “modern” metric sex estimation methods on ancient Egyptian skeletons, demonstrate that three methods can be applied to this population. This finding is of importance for all researchers currently engaged in excavation projects in Egypt, who require sex estimation methods that have been tested and validated for use in ancient Egyptian samples.

Key words: human skeleton; discriminant analysis; skeletal size and proportions; osteometrics

Received 11 December 2015; accepted 4 May 2016; published online 9 June 2016.

Return to Volume 10:2016