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Forensic Sci Int. 2001 Mar 1;117(1-2):15-22.

Sex determination from the head of the femur of South African whites and blacks.

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Department of Anatomical Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Private Bag 3, Wits, 2050, Johannesburg, South Africa.


The current practice whereby criminals dismember the remains of their victims in an attempt to make their identification difficult requires that simple methods of sex determination from fragmented skeletal remains are available to forensic anthropologists and skeletal biologists. The head of the femur is an example of such bone fragments. Identification and demarking points have been derived from the diameters of the head of the femur and used to determine the sex of individuals. It has been shown, however, that the numerical values of these parameters that permit sex identification vary between races. The objectives of the present study were therefore to establish the standard numerical values of the identification and demarking points for sex determination in South African whites and blacks and to see if these standards are different in the two races. A total of 520 femurs of white (160 males and 100 females) and black (160 males and 100 females) South Africans were obtained from the Raymond Dart Skeletal Collection in the Department of Anatomical Sciences of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. The vertical and transverse diameters of the heads of the femurs were measured by means of a stainless steel vernier caliper. Identification and demarking points were derived from the values of these diameters. The head diameter identification point and demarking point were found to be sexually dimorphic in both white and black South Africans. The mean head diameter of the male femur was significantly greater than the mean head diameter of the female femur in both population groups (significant at P<0.001). These values were correspondingly greater in the white than the black population. The numerical values of the male identification and demarking points were higher than the corresponding female values in the two population. In both sexes, these values were greater in the whites than the blacks South Africans. It is concluded that the diameters of the head of the femur and the identification and demarking points that are derived from them are sexually dimorphic in South African white and black populations. However, the numerical values of these sex-determining bone parameters defer between the two population groups. Therefore, it is necessary to determine race-specific standards of these parameters.

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