Prominent Methods and Theories in the Estimation of Body Mass from Skeletal Remains


  • Kyra O'Neill Department of Anthropology and Campus Saint-Jean, University of Alberta



body mass, adults, subadults, femur, musculoskeletal stress markers, articular surfaces


Estimating body mass from skeletal remains is considered a gap in the creation of a biological profile. Over the last few decades, there have been attempts to fill this gap using different elements from the skeleton. Using various academic databases, a study was done to investigate the prominent methods and theories in body mass estimation. These methods include the use of the femur, the articular surfaces, and the interpretation of musculoskeletal stress markers at the entheses. Calculations using the femur found success in adults most prominently when the cortical area is used. The cortical area provided a percent error margin of 14–22%, with the error decreasing when sex and ancestry-specific equations were used. Musculoskeletal stress markers correlated with heavier body mass in various regions when looking at robusticity. However, these results could not be distinguished between higher body mass individuals and athletic individuals. The articular surface area exhibited no change when body mass is considered, although other features such as osteoarthritis can potentially provide insight into body mass. In addition, subadult femurs were investigated and provided error percentages of 5–7% for juveniles 7 years and younger, and the bi-iliac breadth with long bones can be used for those 15–17 years old with an error margin of 5–8%. These methods exhibit limitations in the demographics of the study, the lack of weight extremely investigated, and various confounding factors. However, these methods and theories in body mass estimations from skeletal remains provide a promising start.


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