The School of Biosciences

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Exercise 4; Sexing material
In this session you will obtain forensic information from skeletal material. These techniques are used both for the study of archaeological finds dating back to the early stages of human evolution and in modern day forensics. If skeletal material is in good condition it is possible to identify the sex of the individual, age at death, height, illnesses during life and cause of death.11

Using the skeletal characteristics guide12 at the end of this book, establish whether a modern human skeleton is most likely to be male or female13, according to the following characteristics:

Sex characteristic




Sub-pubic angle

Sciatic Notch


Brow Ridge


Mastoid Processes

Nuchal Crest

Mandible - overall

Chin shape

Goneal angle


The sex of the skeleton is probably:

Exercise 5: How tall is a skeleton?
The most accurate way of estimating stature from skeletal material when you don’t have the entire skeleton is to measure the length of the long bones. You would expect the length of the long bones to be proportional to height – but is this true?
Measure your height and the length of your femur (upper leg bone). Put your data into the computer at the front of the lab so we can get a class estimate. Sketch the class data plotted on the computer.


Height (cm)

Femur (cm)

  • Do your results suggest that it is possible to predict height from femur length? Can you get a linear equation to use on other material14?

  • Use the relationship you have obtained to calculate the height of the modern human (HS_modern_HF.jpg) and Homo ergaster (Ergaster_HF.jpg).


Exercise 5: How did an organism walk16?

  • Now you have analysed the time course of brain size evolution the following exercise will in allow you to compare this with the evolution of bi-pedalism.

  • The humero-femoral index is an important measure in the analysis of locomotion as it can reflects differences in how they walk.

  • It is calculated as [humerus length x 100] / femur length.

Calculate the Humero/Femoral index for each organism


H/F index

Mode of locomotion

T. rex





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