Original paper

Sex estimation using the femur of Austrians born in the 19th to the middle of the 20th century

Kanz, Fabian; Fitzl, Christine; Vlcek, Alexander; Frommlet, Florian


Sex estimation of human bones or bone fragments is crucial for the identification process of unknown bodies. Regional differences and secular changes lead to ever changing osteometric standards for different populations. This study provides femoral dimensions of Austrians born between 1822 and 1949 and evaluates the discriminating power of sex estimation functions developed by discriminant analyses. Depending on the state of preservation up to 127 femora of adult individuals (72 females and 55 males) were measured. The following means and standard variations were obtained: Maximum length (male: 449.7 ± 16.7 mm, female: 413.9 ± 16.3 mm), head circumference (148.5 ± 7.8 vs. 133.8 ± 6.4 mm), vertical (46.9 ± 2.4 vs. 41.9 ± 2.1 mm), transverse (46.3 ± 2.4 vs. 41.5 ± 2.0 mm), and maximum head diameter (47.0 ± 2.3 vs. 42.0 ± 2.1 mm), as well as sagittal (28.3 ± 2.2 vs. 26.2 ± 1.8 mm), transverse (27.9 ± 2.5 vs. 26.1 ± 2.0 mm), and maximum midshaft diameter (29.2 ± 2.1 vs. 27.3 ± 1.6 mm) and finally condylar width (79.6 ± 4.6 vs. 71.9 ± 3.8 mm). The (cross-validated) discriminant analysis for single measurements showed that the best classification is obtained using femur head dimensions, with correct sexing rates between 84.8% for the circumference and 87.8% for the maximum diameter. The maximum length achieved a similarly high rate of correct classification with 86.5%, whereas the rate for the condylar width (80.6%) was somewhat lower. The potential of midshaft dimensions for sex estimation was substantially weaker (62.3 to 70.8%). With regard to a multivariate analysis, a stepwise selection procedure favoured a combination of maximum length and vertical head diameter with 90.1% being correctly classified. A combination of maximum length, maximum head diameter and maximum midshaft diameter resulted in an even higher rate of 91.5%. These Austrian standards may provide additional possibilities for sexing unknown bodies and skeletal remains born in the 19th to the middle of the 20th century.


secular changesforensic anthropologyosteometrybioarcheologydiscrimination analysesfemur dimensions