University of Oulu

Langley, N., Meadows Jantz, L., McNulty, S., Maijanen, H., Ousley, S., Jantz, R. (2018) Error quantification of osteometric data in forensic anthropology. Forensic Science International, 287, 183-189. doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2018.04.004

Error quantification of osteometric data in forensic anthropology

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Author: Langley, Natalie R.1; Meadows Jantz, Lee2; McNulty, Shauna3;
Organizations: 1Department of Anatomy, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, Mayo Clinic School of Medicine Arizona Campus
2Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee
3Science Department, Umpqua Community College
4University of Oulu, Archaeology
5Department of Mathematics and Information Technology, Mercyhurst University
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: embargoed
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2018
Publish Date: 2019-04-10


This study evaluates the reliability of osteometric data commonly used in forensic case analyses, with specific reference to the measurements in Data Collection Procedures 2.0 (DCP 2.0). Four observers took a set of 99 measurements four times on a sample of 50 skeletons (each measurement was taken 200 times by each observer). Two-way mixed ANOVAs and repeated measures ANOVAs with pairwise comparisons were used to examine interobserver (between-subjects) and intraobserver (within-subjects) variability. Relative technical error of measurement (TEM) was calculated for measurements with significant ANOVA results to examine the error among a single observer repeating a measurement multiple times (e.g. repeatability or intraobserver error), as well as the variability between multiple observers (interobserver error). Two general trends emerged from these analyses: (1) maximum lengths and breadths have the lowest error across the board (TEM < 0.5), and (2) maximum and minimum diameters at midshaft are more reliable than their positionally-dependent counterparts (i.e. sagittal, vertical, transverse, dorso-volar). Therefore, maxima and minima are specified for all midshaft measurements in DCP 2.0. Twenty-two measurements were flagged for excessive variability (either interobserver, intraobserver, or both); 15 of these measurements were part of the standard set of measurements in Data Collection Procedures for Forensic Skeletal Material, 3rd edition. Each measurement was examined carefully to determine the likely source of the error (e.g. data input, instrumentation, observer’s method, or measurement definition). For several measurements (e.g. anterior sacral breadth, distal epiphyseal breadth of the tibia) only one observer differed significantly from the remaining observers, indicating a likely problem with the measurement definition as interpreted by that observer; these definitions were clarified in DCP 2.0 to eliminate this confusion. Other measurements were taken from landmarks that are difficult to locate consistently (e.g. pubis length, ischium length); these measurements were omitted from DCP 2.0. This manual is available for free download online (, along with an accompanying instructional video (

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Series: Forensic science international
ISSN: 0379-0738
ISSN-E: 1872-6283
ISSN-L: 0379-0738
Volume: 287
Pages: 183 - 189
DOI: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2018.04.004
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 616 Other humanities
Funding: We would like to thank Charlene Weaver in the University of Tennessee Anthropology Department and Carolyn Gulley and Melissa Miracle in the Lincoln Memorial University grants office for their assistance with administrating the grant that made this research effort possible.
Copyright information: © 2018. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license