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Quantifying Error Rates for the Measurement of Human Skeletal Remains

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2017
2 pages
This is a summary of a NIJ-funded project described in the grantee report, "Evaluation of Osteometric Measurements in Forensic Anthropology," which reports on the successful effort to quantify error rates for the measurement of human skeletal remains.

The project involved scores of skeletal measurements conducted by four experts. The researchers report that errors in the measurement of human skeletal remains can be minimized by using appropriate instrumentation, understanding the measurement definition, and using highly reliable and repeatable measurements. Knowing the reliability of a given measurement then provides a foundation from which to estimate sex, ancestry, and stature. The data were analyzed to assess measurement reliability and repeatability. The researchers then calculated the relative technical error of measurement that represents the variability among the observers when the same measurements were taken multiple times. They then developed a scaled error index (SET), another procedure to determine and compare variability of the measurements. The researchers concluded that the ultimate impact of this project is to develop an improved and more accurate reference database and methods for identifying unknown decedents.

Date Published: June 1, 2017