Femoral head diameter is commonly used to estimate body mass from the skeleton. The three most frequently employed methods, designed by Ruff, Grine, and McHenry, were developed using different populations to address different research questions. They were not specifically designed for application to female remains, and their accuracy for this purpose has rarely been assessed or compared in living populations. This study analyzes the accuracy of these methods using a sample of modern British women through the use of pelvic CT scans (n = 97) and corresponding information about the individuals' known height and weight. Results showed that all methods provided reasonably accurate body mass estimates (average percent prediction errors under 20%) for the normal weight and overweight subsamples, but were inaccurate for the obese and underweight subsamples (average percent prediction errors over 20%). When women of all body mass categories were combined, the methods provided reasonable estimates (average percent prediction errors between 16 and 18%). The results demonstrate that different methods provide more accurate results within specific body mass index (BMI) ranges. The McHenry Equation provided the most accurate estimation for women of small body size, while the original Ruff Equation is most likely to be accurate if the individual was obese or severely obese. The refined Ruff Equation was the most accurate predictor of body mass on average for the entire sample, indicating that it should be utilized when there is no knowledge of the individual's body size or if the individual is assumed to be of a normal body size. The study also revealed a correlation between pubis length and body mass, and an equation for body mass estimation using pubis length was accurate in a dummy sample, suggesting that pubis length can also be used to acquire reliable body mass estimates. This has implications for how we interpret body mass in fossil hominins and has particular relevance to the interpretation of the long pubic ramus that is characteristic of Neandertals.
Journal of Human Evolution – Elsevier
Published: Feb 1, 2018
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