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J Forensic Sci. 2011 Mar;56(2):344-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2010.01658.x. Epub 2011 Jan 25.

A re-examination of cremains weight: sex and age variation in a Northern California sample.

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Department of Anthropology, California State University, 400 West First Street, Chico, CA, USA.


The reduction of modern commercially cremated remains into a fine powder negates the use of traditional methods of skeletal analysis. The literature on the use of cremains weight for estimating aspects of the biologic profile is limited, often with conflicting results. This study re-evaluates the value of weight in the assessment of biologic parameters from modern cremated remains. A sample of adults was collected in northern California (n = 756), with a cremains weight averaging 2737.1 g. Males were significantly heavier than females (mean = 3233.2 g versus mean = 2238.3 g, respectively; p<0.001). Comparison of this sample with other previously reported samples from southern California, Florida, and Tennessee indicates a consistent sex difference, with the most similar mean values to the Tennessee study. Although cremains weight decreases with age as expected, the relationship is weak; thus, cremains weight cannot accurately predict age-at-death. While sex estimation shows considerable accuracy (86.3% for males and 80.9% for females), sectioning points may be population specific.

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