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Recording skeletal completeness in cases of fragmentary human remains: a pilot technical study using computed tomography volume rendering applications
journal contributionposted on 2020-07-20, 00:00 authored by K Bredhauer, Annalisa DurdleAnnalisa Durdle, S Rowbotham
Documenting skeletal completeness is an essential element of the physical anthropology examination. Methods available to calculate skeletal completeness, that is how much of the complete skeleton is available for analysis, remain limited and subjective. This study aimed to develop an objective and standardized technique for recording skeletal completeness in adult individuals by establishing percentage values for complete and fragmentary skeletal elements. Percentages were established from 14 adult individuals from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine’s post-mortem computed tomography database. Using Syngo.via’s digital editing tools, the volume of each whole bone and bone segment was measured. Percentages were established by calculating the proportion of each bone’s volume relative to the volume of the complete skeleton. Mean percentage values for each bone and bone segment from eight of the individuals were taken as the reference percentage value. Percentage values from the remaining six individuals were used to validate the reference percentages. Between 33.33% and 85.71% of the percentages calculated were congruent with the reference percentages. Results indicate this technique in its current form is not reliable or accurate and thus these reference percentages are not recommended for use. Rather, this study has identified a novel technique that, with further development and refinement, may provide a standardized means for recording skeletal completeness appropriate for use in forensic anthropology and biological archaeology practice.