The Use of Odontometric Traits Improves the Chances of Sex Identification in a Contemporary Sicilian Human Population

Case Report

Austin J Forensic Sci Criminol. 2015;2(1): 1012.

The Use of Odontometric Traits Improves the Chances of Sex Identification in a Contemporary Sicilian Human Population

Andrea Dario Messina*

Dipartimento Scienze e Tecnologie Biologiche, Chimiche E Farmaceutiche, Italy

*Corresponding author: Andrea Dario Messina, Dipartimento Scienze e Tecnologie Biologiche, Chimiche E Farmaceutiche, LabHomo - Laboratory of Anthropologyvia Archirafi 18, 90123 Palermo, Italy

Received: September 10, 2014; Accepted: November 23, 2015; Published: January 02, 2015


Determining the sex is one of the most important steps in the procedure to identify the unknown person. Teeth are a potential source of information on sex.

The research is performed on a total of 187 specimens from the contemporary cemetery in Palermo (Sicily). It is acknowledged that the adult hipbone (oscoxae) is by far the best non-population-specific indicator for reliable sex determination of adults. Sex is determined on the basis metric criteria of the pelvic bones as described by Murrail et al, as well as odontometric features. Sexual dimorphism of the odontometric features is tested by the Students’t test method. Determining the sex on the basis of pelvic features is possible in 61.5% of the cases. Combining the pelvic and odontometric features it is possible to determine the sex in 90.9% of the cases. In cases where ante-mortem data on sex are not available it is best to combine a number of different methods in order to raise the level of confidence and the level of success in sex determination. The aim of this study is to offer a chance to increase the diagnosis of sex in the absence of pelvic or cranial data.

Keywords: Sicily; Sex determination; Odontometrics features


The sexual difference in the human skeleton has been well studied in many populations [1]. Most scholars agree that sex diagnosis of adult skeletons can be performed easily and with high reliability [2,3]. The hip-bone is the most suitable bone because of its marked sexual dimorphism which results mainly from selective constraints on males and females imposed by locomotion and childbearing [4,5]. The sexual dimorphism of the hip- bone is non-specific for populations, which is not the case for other parts of the skeleton [1].

Teeth are known for being the most resistant mineralised specimens against different agents of destruction [6]. Further, the biological parameters derived from the study of the teeth offer a good support for the research of human biology [7]. Therefore, teeth are very important elements in the identification of skeletal remains, especially in cases when, due to the poor preservation of skeletal remains, the identification is not possible by standard methods.

Sex determination using dental features is primarily based upon the comparison of tooth dimensions in males and females, or upon the comparison of frequencies of non-metric dental traits, like Carabelli’s trait of upper molars, deflecting wrinkle of lower first molars, distal accessory ridge of the upper and lower canines or shoveling of the upper central incisors [8].

Odontometric analysis in human sexual variation had a significant development, in research in fact there are numerous studies in which odontometric characteristics in male and female have been identified [8-12]. These standards can be of use in determining the sex in specific cases: in individual, as well as in groups, forensic cases or archaeological contests [13-15].

The aim of this study is to determine the sex on the basis of metrical variables of pelvis bone [16] from skeletal remains and to integrate the results with odontometric features.

This paper deals with odontometrics as an easy-to-use additional technique to determine the sex in archaeological circumstances without the need to complicate statistical software and techniques. We propose the range of values that can be attributed only to males and only to females.

Material and Methods

Research has been carried out on 187 skeletal remains excavated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries at the contemporary cemetery in Palermo.

Sex determination of the adult skeletons was done using the metric criteria of the pelvic bones as described by Murail et al. [16], on the basis of the 10 hip-bone measurements, according to previous definitions shown in Table 1.