Name: _________________________________________

skull

Investigation: Can You Estimate a Person’s Height from the Length of their Bones?

At a nearby construction zone, workers have made a startling discovery. They uncovered several bones that look like they were buried some time ago. You are part of a team of forensic anthropologists who have been called in to analyze these bones. Unfortunately, the bones were heavily damaged by the construction equipment. The bones have all been mixed up, and several have been crushed. However, you think you can use the bones that are left to:

1) Determine how many people were buried at this location
2) Determine the heights of the different individuals

When a body is discovered, it is important to learn as much as possible from the remains. Forensic anthropologists use mathematical formulas to estimate someone’s height from the lengths of certain bones in their body. But where do these formulas come from?

Using a metric ruler, measure the length of your femur in centimeters. This is the large bone that runs from your hip socket to your knee cap. Record this information in the table below for you and your lab partners.  Leave the calculated height blank for now.   Gather data from at least four people in your class.

Name:

 

 

 

 

Femur Length (cm)

 

 

 

 

Height (cm)

 

 

 

 

Calculated Height (cm)

 

 

 

 

The following bones were recovered from the construction site. A fellow forensic anthropologist has already classified the bones by sex and race. Using the mathematical formulas, calculate the approximate height of each individual.

 

Bone #

Bone Type

Length (cm)

Race

Sex

Calculated Height (cm)

1

Humerus

38.2

Caucasian

Male

 

2

Femur

44.0

African-American

Female

 

3

Ulna

25.4

Caucasian

Male

 

4

Femur

52.4

Caucasian

Male

 

5

Femur

43.9

African-American

Female

 

6

Tibia

45.7

Caucasian

Male

 

 

 


Discussion Questions:

1. Is it possible that any of the bones came from the same person? Which bones?

 

 

 

2. What is the minimum number of bodies buried at this site? What is the maximum number of bodies buried at this site? Explain your reasoning.

 

 

 

 

3. Do all bones from the same exactly the same height? Suggest reasons why the heights would vary.

 

 

 

 

4. On the formula table, there is a symbol shown as ± .   What does this symbol mean?

 

 

 

 

 

5.  Go back to your original table and use the formula to calculate the height of each person.
Are the heights exactly what you expected them to be? Why or why not?

 

 


Formulas for Calculating Height

 

Race

Male Equation

Female Equation

Femur

Caucasian

2.32 x femur + 65.53 ± 3.94 cm

 2.47 x femur + 54.10 ± 3.72 cm

African-American

2.10 x femur + 72.22 ± 3.91

 2.28 x femur + 59.76 ± 3.41

Asian

2.15 x femur + 72.57 ± 3.80 cm

2.15 x femur + 72.57 ± 3.80 cm

Tibia

Caucasian

2.42 x tibia + 81.93 ± 4.00 cm

2.90 x tibia + 61.53 ± 3.66 cm

African-American

2.19 x tibia + 85.36 ± 3.96 cm

2.45 x tibia + 72.56 ± 3.70 cm

Asian

2.39 x tibia + 81.45 ± 3.24 cm

2.39 x tibia + 81.45 ± 3.24 cm

Ulna

Caucasian

3.76 x ulna + 75.55 ± 4.72 cm

4.27 x ulna + 57.76 ± 4.30 cm

African-American

3.20 x ulna + 82.77 ± 4.74 cm

3.31 x ulna + 75.38 ± 4.83 cm

Asian

3.48 x ulna + 77.45 ± 4.66 cm

3.48 x ulna + 77.45 ± 4.66 cm

Humerus

Caucasian

2.89 x humerus + 78.10 ± 4.57 cm

3.36 x humerus + 57.97 ± 4.45 cm

African-American

2.88 x humerus + 75.48 ± 4.23 cm

3.08 x humerus + 64.67 ± 4.25 cm

Asian

2.68 x humerus + 83.19 ± 4.16 cm

2.68 x humerus + 83.19 ± 4.16 cm