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Chronological metamorphosis of the auricular surface of the ilium A new method for the determination of adult skeletal age at death.

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AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 68:15-28 (1985)
Chronological Metamorphosis of the Auricular Surface of the
Ilium: A New Method for the Determination of Adult Skeletal Age
at Death
C. OWEN LOVEJOY, RICHARD S. MEINDL, THOMAS R. PRYZBECK,
AND ROBERT P. MENSFORTH
Departments of Anthropology and Biology, Kent State University, Kent,
Ohio 44242 (C.O.L, R.S.M., R.P M.); Department of Orthopaedic Surgery,
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio 44106 (C.0.L.); Cleveland
Museum of Natural History, Cleveland, Ohio 44106 (C.0.L);Department of
Human Anatomy, Northeast Ohio Universities College of Medicine,
Rootstown, Ohio 44272 (C.0.L);Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Ofice,
Cleveland, Ohio 44106 (C.0.L);Department of Anthropology, Washington
University, St. Louis, Missouri 63130 (TR.I?)
KEY WORDS Auricular, Ilium, Forensic, Age-determination,
Demography, Sacroiliac
ABSTRACT
A new method for the determination of adult skeletal age at
death based upon chronological changes in the auricular surface of the ilium
is presented. Formal stages have been constructed following extensive tests
and refinements in observations made of such changes. Two completely “blind”
tests were conducted to assess the accuracy and bias of the new method.
Results show that the system is equally accurate to pubic symphyseal aging
(although somewhat more difficult to apply), and also carries the advantages
of a higher preservation rate for the auricular surface in archaeological populations and continued age-related change beyond the fifth decade.
While the accurate determination of adult
age at death is a key element in the description and analysis of skeletal populations and
in forensic anthropology, criteria available
from which to systematically judge age at
death are limited. For some time the pubic
symphyseal face has been the principal
source of such data with auxiliary input
sometimes applied from cranial suture closure and dental wear. During the analysis of
age of the Libben population, we noted a
strong correlation between age determined
by other variables and morphological change
of the auricular surface of the ilium. As a
consequence we conducted the present study
of age changes in the auricular surface of the
ilium and their relation to age using both the
Todd Collection (Cleveland Museum of Natural History) and the Libben Collection (Kent
State University), as well as several forensic
cases (Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office)
that became available during the period of
the study.
Age changes in the auricular surface are
relatively well defined and sufficiently regu-
0 1985 ALAN R. LISS, INC
lar to provide accurate estimates of age at
death. However, they are somewhat more difficult to interpret than those used in pubic
symphyseal aging. The reasons for this are
twofold. First, there is no definitive “delayed
epiphysis” stage as is found in the symphysis
(the “ventral rampart”), and second, the age
changes in the auricular surface, while regular, are more complex. There are strong advantages of auricular surface aging over that
based on the pubic symphysis, however. The
survival rate of this region of the innominate
is substantially higher than the pubic symphysis in archaeological populations; interpretable changes in the auricular surface
extend well beyond the age of 50 (while they
generally do not in the pubic symphysis); and
based upon the present study, they are
equally accurate in the prediction of age at
death. Therefore, while auricular surface aging is more difficult to master, the rewards
are well worth the effort.
Received February 16, 1982; revised January 2, 1985; accepted
January 3,1985.
16
(2.0.LOVEJOY, R.S. MEINDL, T.R. PRYZBECK, ANDR.P. MENSFORTH
PREVIOUS DESCRIPTIONS OF THE AURICULAR
SURFACES AND THEIR CHANGE WITH AGE
The sacroiliac joint has received extensive
attention in the literature and has been the
subject of many anatomical descriptions. The
first comprehensive description was by
Meckel in 1815. While defined as a n amphiarthrosis in earlier literature, it is now
clear that it is a true diarthrosis (Prentiss,
1917; Weisl, 1955; Frigerio et al., 1974;
Cohen, et al., 1967; Soholt, 1951; Solonen,
1957; Colachis et al., 1963; Bickel and Romness, 1957; Newton, 19571, the motion of
which is greatly increased a s a consequence
of the hormones of pregnancy, particularly
relaxin (Sashin, 1930; Putschar, 1931).
The auricular surface itself has been the
subject of several anatomical descriptions
(Schunke, 1938; Sashin, 1930; Brooke, 1924).
Schunke (1938) examined the thickness of
the cartilage covering the opposing sacral
and iliac surfaces. He found sacral cartilage
to vary in thickness from 1 to 3 mm., while
iliac cartilage was usually less than 1 mm
thick. He also noted distinctive differences in
the nature of the cartilage covering the two
halves of the joint, a n observation borne out
by this study (see below). He described the
sacral cartilage as being primarily hyaline
with “surface cells arranged in compact, parallel layers,” while the cartilage investing
the iliac portion of the joint was primarily
fibrous with occasional islands of hyaline
cartilage. He described the fibrocartilage as
having a columnar arrangement along the
dorsoventral axis of the surface. Schunke observed that after the third decade the surfaces of the joint became “roughened, furred,
and frayed.”
Sashin (1930) attributed this process to a n
age-related increase in the proportion of fibrocartilage in the joint (see below). Schunke
took issue with this observation, attributing
it instead to the more typical process of degeneration seen in other movable joints with
synovial cavities. He noted, however, that in
none of his sample of 200 joints did any eburnation occur, a n observation suggesting that
surface changes are in fact primarily a consequence of a n increase in the proportion of
fibrocartilage as suggested by Sashin, whose
work with the joint was much more extensive and systematic. Observations of the subchondral bone surface made during the
present study tend to support Sashin’s view,
since they progressively accumulate with age
in a regular way, usually without any asso-
ciation with significant osteoarthritic degeneration or marked osteophytosis.
Brooke’s (1924) observations on ankylosis
of the joint are of some interest to the present
study. He found that ankylosis was common
in males above the age of 50 but always rare
in females. Thirty-seven percent of his sample of 105 males were ankylosed, and 76% of
the sample of 44 joints above the age of 50
years showed ankylosis. No ankylosis was
observed in his sample of 105 females of all
ages, and he concluded that it was primarily
a male trait. He did not provide a n age-specific report of his sample, so that his data are
of limited value in the determination of age,
nor did he specify whether he was reporting
fibrous or true bony ankylosis. Sashin also
reported ankylosis to be a frequent occurrence in older male joints that he reviewed
(1930). His data were more systematically
reported and are reproduced in Table 1. He
also documented the well-established increase in mobility of the sacroiliac joint with
pregnancy. This factor, along with preauricular sulcus formation (also associated with
pregnancy) must be considered in auricular
aging, although on the whole these factors
seem to introduce only minimal bias in age
determination.
Use of the auricular surface proper for determination of skeletal age a t death was included by Kobayashi in his general review of
indicators available for age assessment
(1967). He provides brief descriptions of some
changes with age.
HISTOLOGICAL CORRELATES OF AGING IN THE
AURICULAR SURFACE
Sashin’s extensive review of histological
changes that occurred with age in his sample
of 257 postmortem examinations of the auricular surfaces (sacrum and ilium) clearly document the regular changes that take place
in this joint with increasing age. It is important to note that his paper did not come to
our attention until after the age changes described below were prepared from osteological material. The similarity in his description
of age changes observed histologically and
those of the present study (observed grossly)
are striking. His work was based upon a sample of 43 cases between the ages of birth and
29 years (group 0, 111cases between 30 and
59 years (group
and 103 cases 60 years or
older (group IID. For group I he provided the
following description of the appearance of the
auricular cartilage of the ilium:
a,
17
AURICULAR SURFACE AGING
TABLE 1. Osteoarthritic changes and bony ankylosis of the sacroiliac joints (data from Sashin, 1930)
Age hr)
Males
Up to 29
30-39
40-49
50-59
Females
Up to 29
30-39
40-49
50-59
No.
Beginning
Osteophytes
Moderate
6
5
7
23
0
0
1
12
5
6
0
0
0
2
4
7
The cartilage lining the ilium is slightly
bluish, dull, and striated. The surface is
grooved by transverse radiating lines, giving it a striped appearance. The articulating cartilage is thin, in places membranelike, and varies in thickness from one-half
to two millimeters.
For group I1 he found the following changes
to have occurred normally:
The iliac cartilage . . . becomes irregular,
granular, often very roughened, and
coated here and there with yellow plaques.
When the joint of a man in the fourth
decade is examined, the changes are likely
to be more pronounced. . . . The articular
cartilage is usually very irregular and
coarsely granular; around its margins are
erosions and bony irregularities, or osteophytes. In some cases, too, fibrotic changes
appear in this cartilage and loose strands
may be seen free in the joint space. In a
male at the fifth decade, one very frequently finds the cartilages irregular.
There are erosions, tears, and fibrotic
changes, with connective-tissue strands
connecting the joint surfaces. . . .
His description of cases beyond the age of
60 continues to emphasize the further degeneration of the joint and its articular cartilage. Both joint surfaces become “deeply
icteric; the surfaces were rough and very irregular; coarse fibrous strands passed from
surface to surface.” Osteophytosis, with fibrous and bony ankylosis became progressively more frequent with age.
While Sashin’s descriptions of the cartilaginous changes do not correspond exactly with
those described below for auricular subchondral bone, the general correspondence be-
Advanced
Beginning
Bony ankylosis
Moderate
Advanced
tween the two is excellent, and correlation
between these separate observations is usually obvious (see below).
METHODS
The present study is based upon detailed
observation of over 250 well-preserved auricular surfaces from the Libben population and
systematic observation of approximately 500
specimens from the Todd Collection. Fourteen forensic cases with confirmed identity
and age were also used. The method was
then tested independently using two carefully screened samples from the Todd Collection whose ages a t death were unknown to
the investigators and that had not been used
in the development of formal aging standards (see Lovejoy et al., 1985).The two sample sizes were 98 and 108, respectively.
Results of these blind tests are reviewed after
presentation of the system itself.
Terminology
The following terms and definitions (Fig. 1)
will prove useful in the descriptions and discussion that follow:
Auricular surface: This is the area of subchondral bone forming the iliac portion of the
sacroiliac joint. The sacral portion or surface
taking part in this joint does not reflect the
age changes described below and cannot be
used to determine age. This is most likely a
consequence of the greater tendency of iliac
cartilage to become fibrotic with age, and its
thinner covering to reflect more distinctive
changes in the subchondral bone.
Demifaces: The form of the typical auricular surface is in the general shape of a
“boomerang” with the apex occurring a t the
junction of the surface and the posterior termination of the arcuate line of the innominate. The superior portion relative to this
18
Retroauricular
Area
C.O. LOVEJOY, R.S. MEINDL, T.R. PRYZBECK, AND R.P. MENSFORTH
1‘
\
Preauricular
Sulcus
Inferior Demiface
Fig. 1. Region utilized in auricular surface age determination. For discussion see text.
apex will be called the superior demiface,
while that below this point will be called the
inferior demiface. Since the term “demiface”
(adopted from traditional pubic symphysis
aging description) is somewhat cumbersome,
all future references will simply be to the
upper or lower face with the prefix “demi”
understood.
Apex: As just described this is the portion
of the perimeter of the joint in immediate
contact with the posterior terminus of the
arcuate line.
Retroauricular area: This shall be considered the general area posterior to the auricular surface from which the lumbosacral and
sacroiliac ligament complex arises. It may be
considered to extend from the auricular surface posterior to the posterior inferior iliac
spine, and superiorly as far as the insertion
of the iliocostalis.
Porosity: Perforations of subchondral bone
of the auricular surface will be generally
termed porosiy . This is not to be confused
with those that arise as a consequence of
hyperostosis or osteopenia. With respect to
the auricular surface, there frequently occur
small to large perforations that are to some
extent associated with age changes (see be-
low). These will be referred to with respect to
their size as “microporosity” (fine, just optically visible perforations) and “macroporosity” (less regular, large, generally oval perforations ranging from 1 to 10 mm in diameter).
Grain: Reference will be made below to
changes in the “grain” of the surface. This
refers to the gross appearance of the surface
with respect to its fine structure as far as can
be judged by the unaided eye. Stereomicroscopic inspection of this feature does not enhance (in our experience) its value as an age
indicator. A heavily “grained” surface is one
that resembles closely the surface of fine
sandpaper.
Billowing: This term has also been adopted
from one used in descriptions of pubic symphyseal age changes. However, it does not
have quite the same meaning in the present
description. Herein it is meant to represent
the presence or absence of transverse ridging
(usually running transversely across upper
and lower faces). The “billows” vary from
large regular surface features, to fine grained
just-visible ridges.
Density: Reference will be made below to
the density of the auricular surface. This refers only to the surface appearance and not
to the amount of bone actually present (which
would require sectioning). A “dense” surface
is one in which the subchondral bone appears
compact, smooth, and shows a marked absence of “grain.”
GENERAL NATURE OF SURFACE CHANGES WITH
AGE
Grain and density
Most surfaces retain a granular appearance until it is lost to other surface features.
Granulation, however, becomes more coarse
with increasing age. Thus a fine granular
appearance is a n indicator of youth, and is
usually associated with billowing and striae.
Loss of granularity increases with age. Such
loss may occur as early as 27 years, but in
such cases the loss does not cover the entire
surface. Complete loss of granularity may
occur as early as the middle of the fourth
decade, but does not become a modal condition until about 45-50 years, even though
many auricular surfaces of this age retain a
partially granular appearance. The general
sequence, then, is from a fine to coarse condition, with eventual loss to densification (the
subchondral bone becomes highly compact
and exhibits no grain).
AURICULAR SURFACE AGING
Macroporosity
Many older auricular surfaces do not demonstrate this feature, but when present, it is
a general indicator of age. Its first occurrence
in our sample was at age 38, but it remains
rare until age 50, after which it becomes
much more frequent. It should not be confused with occasional subchondral defects
that can be present at any age. A general
clue is that macroporosity usually covers a
significant portion of the surface, while subchondral defects are intermittent and not
systemic.
Billowing
This feature is never as marked as in the
pubic symphysis but is present in most
younger individuals. It may be defined as
regular, generally transverse, undulations of
the surface. It generally declines with increasing age between 25 and 40. The oldest
age of occurrence in our sample was 50. It
should not be confused with surface irregularities, which do not show a definite transverse pattern. It tends to reduce between 25
and 30 and to be replaced by striations (see
below).
Striations (striae)
Transverse striations tend to remain as billowing decreases and to characterize individual surfaces in the fourth decade. They may
be retained after the age of 50 but are rare.
They tend to be more marked on the lower
face. Thus, a granular and slightly striated
auricular surface without marked billowing
(and other changes discussed below) is typical of age 35. Striae differ from billows only
in degree. Thus billows tend to become striae
with age, and this feature remains generally
until the age of 40. Above this age, billows/
striae are rare. The oldest age of occurrence
in our sample was 50 years.
Apex
The edge of the auricular surface in the
region of the apex is a diagnostic feature. It
tends to be sharp and distinct until age 35,
after which it may become more broad (as a
consequence of arthritic lipping) and vaguely
triangular in form, or become blunted by the
formation of a “rim.” Most arthritic changes
are first seen here (those which can be most
clearly interpreted). The degree to which the
surface is raised from the innominate is not
a reliable indicator of age and is more pronounced in the female. Formation of the
19
preauricular sulcus causes the anterior lip of
the lower face to become isolated and distinct. This should not be considered an indicator of age.
Retroauricular Area
Activity in this area is an indicator of age.
Young specimens show very smooth and undifferentiated surfaces posterior to the auricular surface (but may have significant
surface features that are themselves “inactive”). The term “activity” includes an increase in porosity, fine to large osteophytes,
and general surface irregularity. While not a
good indicator of age by itself, in conjunction
with other features of the auricular surface
proper, it contributes valuable information
for the age estimate.
Transverse Organization
One of the principal features of younger
auricular surfaces is a definitive anteroposterior organization of the surface. Both billows and striae show this definitive feature.
As aging progresses such organization declines and the surface becomes more amorphous with no clear directional structure.
This is an important factor, since vestiges of
billowing or striae may be seen in some areas
of older surfaces, but the age of these specimens will be detectable by their lack of a
clear transverse organization.
In order to illustrate the general behavior
of each of the above types of chronological
change, we qualitatively assessed (presenceabsence) 102 ilia from the Todd Collection.
The results are shown in Figures 2-5. Each
shows the percentage of the sample by decade that exhibited each of the various traits
described above. As no sex differentials were
detected in any of these characters, they were
not graphed separately by sex.
DESCRIPTION OF GENERAL AGE-CHANGE
PROCESS
Before a series of stages that can be used
t o estimate age at death are presented, it will
be useful to describe age changes in the form
of a general progression. Five basic phases
may be isolated in age transformation of the
auricular surface.
Early post-epiphyseal phase
An irregular, plate-like epiphysis appears
and fuses quickly to the sacral portion of the
sacroiliac joint shortly after puberty (although it is occasionally substantially de-
20
C.O. LOVEJOY, R.S. MEINDL, T.R. PRYZBECK, AND R.P. MENSFORTH
100-
80-
60-
%
i
t
,,
I
I
I
40-
i
I
,
20-
--
Granularity
c
18
-
Density
3’0
50
40
i0
i0
AGE IN YEARS
Fig. 2. Results of qualitative assessment of granularity and density by decade. Correlation
between decade and percent displaying trait is .87 for density, but nonsignificant for granularity. The latter reflects the fact that type of granularity (smooth-coarse) is the age related
feature, while simple presence/absence of granularity is only slightly correlated with age. N =
102.
layed). There is no similar epiphysis in the
development of the auricular portion of the
joint, but a “youthful” appearance is retained, which is somewhat similar to the
more striking “subepiphyseal” surface of the
pubic symphyseal face prior to the fusion of
the ventral rampart. This surface is quite
distinctive and easy to recognize and will be
described in more detail below. It generally
lasts until the mid-20s.
Young adult phase
This extends from the mid-20s to the mid30s or slightly older. During this period most
of the periauricular features remain unchanged, but the surface exhibits loss of billowing and a coarsening of granulation.
Mid adult phase
During this period, age changes in the surface continue, and those in associated peri-
auricular areas (such as the retroauricular
area) are more marked and also become useful in interpreting age (range: mid-30s to mid40s).
Early senescent phase
Between the mid-40s and mid-50s the surface becomes more dense, and periauricular
activity is further increased. Changes are
mostly in grain, porosity, density, and the
condition of the apex (see below).
Breakdown
After the approximate ages of 55-60, the
surface begins to undergo progressive destruction of its subchondral bone. The process is highly variable, as will be described
below, but in all cases it involves increased
porosity and irregularity, with marked periauricular changes.
21
AURICULAR SURFACE AGING
1OC
80
6C
\
%
40
20
-
Transverse Organization
0
Striae
r - - - -Billowing
*
8
AGE IN YEARS
Fig. 3. Results of qualitative assessment of transverse organization, the occurrence of striae,
and the degree of billowing. Correlations between decade and percent displaying each trait are
-.98, -.96, and -.97 respectively. N = 102.
their use in age determination prior to our
knowledge of their actual age. Figure 6 shows
modal auricular stages for the third and
The following are formal standards for age fourth decades; Figure 7 shows modal auricassessment using the auricular surface. A ular stages for the fifth and sixth decades. It
series of modal age phases are illustrated for should be noted that only the actual auricreference in Figures 6 and 7. Relevant data ular faces are shown; final age estimates
for the specimens illustrated in these figures should also incorporate data from the remay be found in Table 2. The specimens troauricular area and apex.
shown were selected after photography, be20-24
cause the photographic appearance of many
The surface displays fine granular texture
specimens differed significantly from their
gross appearance (e.g., shadow effects dis- and marked transverse organization. There
guised billowing or striations, etc.). Thus each is no retro-auricular activity, apical activity,
photograph illustrates the modal appearance or porosity. The surface appears youthful beof a n auricular surface of its prescribed cause of broad and well-defined billows,
“modal age,” even though some specimens, which impart the definitive transverse orgaif studied directly, would yield slightly older nization. Billows are well-defined and cover
or younger age estimates. Table 2 also lists most of the surface. Any subchondral defects
the age assessment made by one of us (C.O.L.) are smooth-edged and rounded (Fig. 6A). Note
during the second blind test (Todd Sample distinct transverse billows and very fine gran11-Lovejoy et al., 1985) as a n illustration of ularity.
CHRONOLOGICAL STAGES OF THE AURICULAR
SURFACE
22
C.O. LOVEJOY, R.S. MEINDL, T.R. PRYZBECK, AND R.P. MENSFORTH
-
Macroporosity
a-.---.e
80
MICroporOsity
1
."
I
/
I
r
,
I
I
I
""1
18
i0
i0
<O
60
i0
AGE IN YEARS
Fig. 4. Results of qualitative assessment of macroporosity and microporosity by decade.
Correlations between decade and percent displaying each trait are .84 for macroporosity and
.96 for microporosity. N = 102.
25-29
Changes from the previous phase are not
marked and are mostly reflected in slight to
moderate loss of billowing, with replacement
by striae. There is no apical activity, porosity, or retroauricular activity. The surface still appears youthful owing to marked
transverse organization. Granulation is
slightly more coarse (Fig. 6B,C). Note slight
reduction of billows in Figure 6B and demonstrable replacement by striae in Figure 6C.
Distinct transverse organization is evident
in both specimens.
30-34
Both faces are largely quiescent with some
loss of transverse organization. Billowing is
much reduced and replaced by (definite)
striae. The surface is more coarsely and recognizably granular than in previous phase,
with no significant changes a t apex. Small
areas of microporosity may appear. Slight
retroauricular activity may occasionally be
present. In general, coarse granulation supercedes and replaces billowing (Fig. 6D-F).
Note smoothing of surface by replacement of
billows by fine striae, but distinct retention
of slight billowing on the lower face of all
three specimens. Loss of transverse organization and coarsening of granularity is
evident.
35-39
Both faces are coarsely and uniformly
granulated, with marked reduction of both
billowing and striae, but striae may still be
present under close examination. Transverse
organization is present but poorly defined.
There is some activity in the retroauricular
area but this is usually slight. Minimal
changes are seen a t the apex, microporosity
is slight, and there is no macroporosity. This
23
AURICULAR SURFACE AGING
,.A,
'.\
,
**.*
I
',\
.
,
,,
-...'
\
I
I
*.
-
lschial
4
e-
- - - e Apical
c-----*
Retroaurtcular
30
30
40
40
60
50
1
70
AGE IN YEARS
Fig. 5. Results of qualitative assessment of auxiliary features (those not employed in formal
descriptions of the auricular surface itself) by decade. Qualitative assessment of osteophyte
formation around the ischial tuberosity is also included. Correlations between decade and
percent displaying trait are 35 for ischial changes, .80 for apical changes, and .92 for retroauricular activity. N = 102.
T A B L E 2.
Figure
reference
Todd
No.
6A
854
1851
1243
1245
1139
1313
690
612
1319
1468
1431
1409
1476
1687
1174
1422
1549L
1549R
1132
1852
6B
6C
6D
6E
6F
6G
6H
61
6J
7K
7L
7M
7N
70
7P
7Q
7R
7s
7T
Modal
age
20
25
28
30
32
34
35
36
38
40
41
42
44
45
47
50
55
55
49
60 +
Blind
age est.
Stated
age
18
27
26
34
33
29
23
33
44
37
41
42
40
54
54
59
68
68
47
63
19
33
24
31
31
35
35
36
39
37
42
38
44
49
54
50
54
54
51
63
Sex
F
M
F
M
M
M
F
F
M
M
M
M
M
M
M
M
F
F
M
M
Fig. 6. Modal changes in the auricular surface with age: third and fourth decades (A-J).
These may be considered standards for the surface itself, but final age determination should
also incorporate auxiliary features as well. Modal, estimated, and stated ages are given in
Table 2.
Fig. 7. Modal changes in the auricular surface with age: fifth and sixth decade (K-T). See
legend of Figure 6 and Table 2.
26
C.O. LOVEJOY, R.S. MEINDL, T.R.PRYZBECK, AND R.P.MENSFORTH
is the primary period of uniform granularity
(Fig. 6G-I). Note coarse granularity, absence
of striae (still slightly visible in Fig. 6G and
in one area of lower face of Fig. 61). Further
reduction of distinct transverse organization
is evident.
40-44
No billowing is seen. Striae may be present
but very vague. The face is still partially
(coarsely) granular and there is a marked
loss of transverse organization. Partial densification (which may occur in islands) of the
surface with commensurate loss of grain is
present along with slight to moderate activity in the retroauricular area. Occasional
macroporosity is seen, but this is not typical.
Slight changes are usually present a t apex.
Some increase in microporosity is seen, depending upon the degree of densification. The
primary feature is the transition from a
granular to a dense surface (Fig. 6J,7K-M).
Note distinct presence of microporosity in
Figure 6 J and simulation of billowing (this
specimen does not display true billowing because it lacks transverse Organization). Microporosity is also clear in remaining
specimens. Note densification of lower face of
Figure 7L and upper face of Figure 7M. Minor striae are still visible on upper face of
Figure 7L and lower face of Figures 7K and
M, but in both cases expression is very slight
and secondary to more distinctive age features.
4549
Significant loss of granulation is seen in
most specimens, with replacement by dense
bone. No billows or striae are present.
Changes at apex are slight to moderate but
are almost always present. There is a distinct
tendency for the surface to become dense. No
transverse organization is evident. Most or
all of any microporosity is lost to densification process. There is increased irregularity
of margins with moderate retroauricular activity and little or no macroporosity (Fig.
7N,O,S). Note distinct densification of these
three specimens and the almost complete
lack of transverse organization. These surfaces are markedly irregular because of the
densification process. Some microporosity is
present in Figure 7s.
50-60
This is a further elaboration of previous
stage, in which marked surface irregularity
becomes paramount feature. Topography,
however, shows no transverse or other form
of organization. Moderate granulation is occasionally retained, but is usually lost during previous phase and is generally absent.
No striae or billows are present. The inferior
face generally is lipped at inferior terminus,
so as to extend beyond the body of the innominate bone. Apical changes are almost invariable and may be marked. Increasing
irregularity of margins is seen. Macroporosity is present in some cases but it is not
requisite. Retroauricular activity is moderate to marked in most cases (Fig. 7P-R Q
and R are opposite sides of same specimen;
despite distinct differences in shape, age features are symmetrical). Note irregularity of
surface, macroporosity of lower faces of all
three specimens, marked density, and absence of any youthful criteria.
+
60
The paramount feature is a nongranular,
irregular surface, with distinct signs of subchondral destruction. No transverse organization is seen and there is a definitive
absence of any youthful criteria. Macroporosity is present in about one-third of all cases.
Apical activity is usually marked but is not
requisite for this age category. Margins become dramatically irregular and lipped, with
typical degenerative joint change. The retroauricular area becomes well defined with
profuse osteophytes of low to moderate relief
(Fig. 7 T typical 60+ auricular surface).
There is clear destruction of subchondral
bone, absence of transverse organization, and
increased irregularity. Older specimens display further directional changes of this type.
METHODS OF APPLICATION
The preceding set of phases has been constructed to serve as age modes in a n idealized
metamorphosis of the auricular surface. It is
designed to be diagnostically applied in the
same manner as the Todd ten-phase system
for the pubic symphyseal face. However,
while many auricular surfaces will clearly
conform to one of the above stage descriptions, many will not, the latter containing
combinations of features from two or more
phase mode descriptions. For the purposes of
seriation and final age assessment, the observer should seek out from each auricular
surface the paramount age criteria that best
represent the biological aging process and
correspond to the designated phase of the
formal method. Auxiliary indicators (e.g., apical and retroauricular activity) may then be
27
AURICULAR SURFACE AGING
used to raise or lower the estimate of age
within the age mode, or in some cases, to
raise or lower the age mode itself.
In general the age modes are best represented by the following paramount
characters:
1. 20-24: billowing and very fine
granularity.
2. 25-29:reduction of billowing, but retention of youthful appearance.
3.30-34 general loss of billowing, replacement by striae, and distinct coarsening of
granularity.
4.35-39:uniform coarse granularity.
5. 4044: transition from coarse granularity to dense surface; this may take part over
islands of the surface of one or both faces.
6.45-49: completion of densification with
complete loss of granularity.
7.50-59: dense irregular surface of rugged
topography and moderate to marked activity
in periauricular areas.
8. 60+: breakdown with marginal lipping,
macroporosity, increased irregularity, and
marked activity in periauricular areas.
While each auricular surface will be distinguishable as falling into one of the above
eight categories, the remaining details must
then be used to refine the age estimate. For
example, billowing is occasionally retained
well into later life. In the case of a coarsely
grained surface, but one that still retains
some billowing, the former indicator is paramount, but the latter should be used to reduce the age estimate slightly (within the
mode). Partial breakdown may occasionally
occur prior to its typical age mode. An auricular surface in the transitional phase between granulation and density that also
showed a small area of breakdown or unusually marked apical or retroauricular activity,
would be placed in the late portion of the age
mode (43 or 44 years) or moved to the succeeding one (i.e., the specimen might be aged
4547 years). Practice and experience in the
application of the above modes will make
their use more clear.
Some mention of sex-specific application
should also be made. In general the above
age modes may be applied in the same fashion to both male and female auricular surfaces. The single exception is female
innominates which show clear and marked
pre-auricular sulcus formation. In these cases
age changes along the inferior margin and
apex are accentuated, the effects of these
must be disregarded in the age estimate.
TESTS OF ACCURACY AND RELIABILITY
Two questions are clearly paramount in
judging the usefulness and validity of an age
indicator. The first is interobserver reliability, and the second is its accuracy in the
prediction of real age at death. The system
presented above has been exhaustively tested
and retested using both the Libben and Todd
collections. In earlier phases of development
of the system, several tests were made using
random Todd samples of 100. In each of these,
correlations with stated age ranged from .55
to .75. However, during these applications
the system was not fully developed, nor were
the Todd specimens used screened for accuracy of stated age. Two final tests of the
system were made using Todd material for
which the stated age at death had been
screened for accuracy, and that did not utilize any of the specimens used in the development of the formal system. Slight
modifications were made in the system between the conduction of these two tests (see
Lovejoy et al., 1985).These latter two tests
thus compose a completely blind and objective evaluation of the auricular aging technique. Partial results of these tests are
presented in Table 3. A complete description
of the methods used to construct the tests
and of selection of the samples used, and a
more complete presentation of results (including Pearson correlation coefficients,comparisons with other age indicators including
TABLE 3.
Actual age (years)
Test I
auricular
surface
Test I1
auricular
surface
18-29
Inaccuracy'
Bias2
3.3
0.9
3.2
2.6
7.6
0.9
7.2
1.6
30-39
Inaccuracy
Bias
40-49
Inaccuracy
Bias
9.4
7.7
-5.9
-2.9
50-59
Inaccuracy
Bias
Over 60
Inaccuracy
Bias
All ages
Inaccuracy
Bias
All ages normalized3
Inaccuracy
Bias
N
9.9
-8.3
11.1
9.0
-6.2
7.2
-5.8
7.8
-3.5
7.0
0.0
7.8
-3.7
98
1.9
7.3
-0.5
108
'Inaccuracy is mean error without regard to sign.
*Bias is mean error incorporating sign of error.
%ormalization consisted of equating the weight at each age
class.
28
C.O. LOVEJOY, R.S. MEINDL, T.R. PRYZBECK, AND R.P. MENSFORTH
pubis, Komolgorov-Smirnov tests with real
age distributions, etc.) may be found in Lovejoy et al. (1985).
In addition, several observers were given
the above descriptions, and without further
comment (following some practice for familarization) or further instruction, were asked
to apply them to the second of the above
samples. The results of these tests of observer reliability and accuracy of age prediction demonstrated that the technique is
highly replicable. Correlations between observers for a sample of 110 ranged between
.76 and .81, which were comparable to similar tests performed using pubic symphyseal
aging. Thus, the accuracy and reliability of
the present system compares favorably with
other systems utilizing the pubic symphyseal
face. These data, in conjunction with the
much higher rate of preservation of the auricular surface in archaeological material,
make the auricular surface a new and valuable tool in estimates of age a t death. When
used systematically in conjunction with other
age indicators (including the pubic symphyseal face), they will also improve the reliability of estimates of age a t death in forensic
anthropology (see Lovejoy et al., 1985).
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The research reported in this paper was
funded by the National Science Foundation,
Award No. BNS-77-07958. The Cleveland
Museum of Natural History generously
loaned skeletal material from the HamannTodd Collection.
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