Original paper

Reconstruction of body height from the skeleton: Testing a dozen different methods for consistency of their results

Sierp, Ingrid; Henneberg, Maciej

Anthropologischer Anzeiger Volume 73 No. 1 (2016), p. 7 - 21

published: Apr 1, 2016
published online: Feb 10, 2016
manuscript accepted: Jun 10, 2015
manuscript received: Feb 3, 2015

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Summary There are a number of methods of physical anthropology available to reconstruct living stature from skeletal remains. Some methods use dimensions of just a few bones, together with regression equations (mathematical, see Table 1: 1–7), while other methods require the whole skeleton and simply add the heights of specific skeletal components (anatomical, see Table 1: 8–11). This study investigates the consistency that mathematical and anatomical methods can provide in the determination of stature from skeletal remains. A significant difference was found between average heights of the same 20 individuals determined from seven mathematical and four anatomical methods (paired t-test, p < 0.001, df = 19). Mathematical methods provided taller height estimates than anatomical methods; the average difference was 47 mm. A repeated measures ANOVA indicated significant differences in the heights determined by all methods (p < 0.0001). Analysis of variance indicated significant differences in the heights determined by various mathematical methods (p < 0.03), whereas there were no significant differences in the heights amongst various anatomical methods (p < 0.77). When simple proportions of the length of the long bones to stature are used for reconstruction (see Table 1: 12), a bias is shown by mathematical methods to overestimate statures of short individuals and underestimate statures of taller individuals. To reduce this bias of linear regressions, we suggest that alternate methods, such as reduced major axis or organic correlation, should be employed (see Table 1: 13–15).


bonesbody heightbody proportionsregressionreduced major axis