Independent Test of the Fourth Rib Aging Technique

Publication Title

American Journal of Physical Anthropology

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skeletal aging, fourth rib, paleodemography




The sternal surface of the 4th rib has been suggested as a useful predictor of adult age-at-death (Iscan et al.: Journal of Forensic Sciences29:1094–1104, 1984; American Journal of Physical Anthropology 65:141–156, 1984). We tested its ability to do so in two tests. In the first, we developed a method of seriation and target age assignment for the 4th rib so that inaccuracy and bias of the method could be assessed by decade. We found that the 4th rib shows characteristic changes in morphology with age and can be included in multifactorial age estimates. In the second test, we applied the phase method developed by Iscan et al. (Journal of Forensic Sciences 29:1094–1104, 1984). The results of our three judges were generally similar to those reported by Iscan and Loth (Journal of Forensic Sciences 31:122–132, 1986).

Measures of race differences in 4th rib morphology were included in both tests. Americans of African descent (black) showed a non-significant trend for the rib changes to be delayed compared to Americans of European descent (white). This is in contrast to the work of Iscan et al., which predicted that blacks would show a tendency toward accelerated rib changes compared to whites, especially after the early 30s (phases 5–7) (Iscan et al.: Journal of Forensic Sciences 32(2):452–466, 1987). © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.