Age Estimation in a Colombian Modern Skeletal Sample: A Test of the Transition Analysis Method

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Maria Alexandra Lopez-Cerquera
Diego Alejandro Casallas


This research tested the ability of the transition analysis (TA) method to return accurate and precise age-at-death estimates in a sample of 58 skeletons from the Antioquia Modern Skeletal Collection. Contributions from individual structures (cranial sutures, pubic symphysis, and auricular surface) and combined structures to final age estimates were examined. When single anatomical structures were considered, the pubic symphysis provided the best age estimates, but results improved when all anatomical units were combined. Results from Pearson correlation tests (p < 0.001) indicated a strong correlation between estimated and chronological age. However, bias and inaccuracy values indicated that TA did not perform equally well for all age cohorts; the method worked better for late adolescents and young adults in the second decade of life and appeared to perform relatively well for individuals in the third decade, but not as satisfactorily. In contrast, results from middle-aged individuals were biased by small sample sizes. Estimates for old individuals were promising, as interval lengths decreased in comparison to those provided by foreign phase-based methods currently applied in Colombia. Gwet’s AC1 coefficients to evaluate interobserver reliability and agreement indicated that there was fair to good agreement in the majority of the traits scored, and discrepancies between examiners were likely due to differences in experience with the application of the method and/or problems with descriptions in English that do not translate well into Spanish. Thus, the translation of the method into Spanish is highly encouraged for a more consistent application of the method.

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Technical Note