Growth Infancy Through Adolescence

After birth, the complex growth process causes the dimensions of bones in the lower limbs to continue to increase until maturity (46). The most accurate data correlating long bone length with chronological age at death originate from radiographic studies of the living. Data on long-bone growth from such studies are provided by Anderson and Green (47); Anderson, Green, and Messner, (48); Anderson, Messner, and Green (49); as well as Francis (50), Ghantus (51), Gindhart (52), Hoffman (53), Maresh (37,38), and Maresh and Deming (39).

Comparative data from samples of archeological origin are available in publications by Hoppa (54), Hoppa and Gruspier, (55), Johnston (56), Merchant and Ubelaker, (57) Miles and Bulman, (58), Stewart (59), Steyn and Henneberg (60), Sundick (61,62), and Walker (63). These studies generally involve measurements of long bones and other skeletal data compared with estimates of age at death, usually derived from assessment of dental formation. Although age at death cannot be calculated as precisely after death as with tissue samples obtained from living individuals, these references provide valuable comparable data about long-bone growth in different populations.

Although bone size can provide important information regarding age at death (64), it is important to consider sex and population origin whenever possible. The comparative studies discussed above suggest considerable population variation, as well as considerable individual variation within populations. This variation increases with age. For example, given an individual of unknown sex, a maximum femur length of approx 310 mm would suggest an age at death of just under 8 yr if the individual was originally a member of an American population of European ancestry, but just under 12 yr if the individual was originally a member of an Eskimo population (9). These data reflect mean values; the actual variation among individuals could present even greater variation.

Humphrey (65) demonstrated that the timing and expression of sexual dimorphism varies in different parts of the skeleton. Sex differences are apparent at birth in the maximum and minimum diameter of the diaphyseal femur. They are apparent at age 2.3 yr in the maximum diameter of the fibula diaphysis, 4.2 yr in the maximum diameter of the tibia diaphysis, 5.3 yr in the minimum diameter of the tibia diaphysis, 11.2 yr in the minimum diameter of the fibula diaphysis, and between 16.1 and 17.6 yr in the maximum lengths of the femur, tibia, and fibula.

If soft tissue is present, measurements can provide useful data on age. Several studies provide information on the growth of the foot (66-71). Correlations between age and calf circumference in different populations are available in Eveleth and Tanner (72).

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