Age at the Time of Death

The next fundamental objective is to aid in the determination of the age at the time of death. The age at time of death can be determined by radiographically documenting the eruption pattern of the teeth, overall dental condition, overall bone and epiphyseal development, fusing patterns of skull bones, and degenerative changes. For individuals under

Figure 2.68 The AP radiograph of the chest of a mummy (U18) from Urbania, Italy, showing the remains were held in place by wire. Since a number of the skeletal components appeared to be disarticulated, it was determined that the remains could not be moved.

approximately 25 years of age, the age assessment should be made using dental eruption patterns and an evaluation of as many epiphyses as can be visualized. Each of these data can then be compared to standardized anthropologic aging charts to assess age at the time of death. For individuals over the age of 25, data such as degenerative changes and dental wear need to be considered along with cultural characteristics such as the physical environment, diet, and work patterns of the culture being studied. The trabecular patterns within certain structures of long bones, such as the femoral neck and calcaneous, can also provide an estimation of age and can only be visualized radiographically.

An example of determining age at the time of death can be found in the case of Princess Anna (previously described). In this case, the recorded age at the time of death of the young princess was three years. The lateral projection of the mandible demonstrated a tooth eruption pattern that suggested her age at the time of her death was more likely around 18 months. Additional radiographs of her wrists supported the earlier age at the time of death. In this case the historical record was corrected using the radiographic data. In population studies, determining the average age at the time of death can have greater meaning when the study size is large enough to conduct statistical analyses.

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