Correlation of the human pubic symphysis surface with age‐at‐death: a novel quantitative method based on a bandpass filter


Age-at-death estimation from skeletal remains typically utilizes the roughness of pubic symphysis articular surfaces. This study presents a new quantitative method adapting a tool from geometric morphometrics, bandpass filtering of partial warp bending energy to extract only age-related changes of the surfaces. The study sample consisted of 440 surface-scanned symphyseal pubic bones from men between 14 and 82 years of age, which were landmarked with 102 fixed and surface semilandmarks. From the original sample, 371 specimens within Procrustes distance of 0.05 of the side-specific average were selected. For this subsample, age was correlated with total bending energy (calculated as summed squared partial warps amplitudes) for a wide range of plausible bandpass filters. For our subsample’s 188 right-side surfaces, the correla- tion between age and bandpass filtered versions of bending energy peaks relatively sharply at r = −0.648 for ages up through 49 years against the first seven partial warp amplitudes only. The finding for left symphyses is similar. The results demonstrate that below the age 50, the symphyseal surface form changes most systematically related to age may be best detected by a lowpass-filtered version of bending energy: signals at the largest geometric scales of roughness rather than its full spectrum. Combining this method with information from other skeletal features could further improve age-at-death estimation based on the symphyseal pubic surface.

International Journal of Legal Medicine