Preliminary Findings From a Visual Pair-Matching Study in a Large Commingled Assemblage

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Carrie B. LeGarde


Pair-matching is an important component of commingled human remains (CHR) analysis, as it can help to limit the amount of DNA testing and contribute to minimum or most likely number of individual calculations. As commingled assemblages become larger, pair-matching becomes more difficult, and it is unknown if accuracy declines. Therefore, a study to determine the accuracy rates of visual pair-matching for multiple observers with a variety of education and experience levels was conducted on a large commingled assemblage. Because the complete results of this study will not be available until all the DNA testing has been completed, this article focuses on the parameters of the study and interobserver variability in pair-matching as well as the current status of the results. In addition, useful morphology of the humerus for pair-matching is identified.

The sample consisted of left and right humeri (n = 287 and n = 293, respectively) from the commingled remains of the USS Oklahoma, which are currently being segregated and identified by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Five anthropologists completed this study with human osteological experience ranging from two to thirteen years, CHR experience ranging from no experience to four years, and the following education levels represented: post-BA (n = 1), post-MA (n = 1), and post-PhD (n = 3).

Those with more CHR experience were more likely to agree than those with PhDs. Participants with the most CHR experience had substantial agreement, spent the most time pair-matching, and had high accuracy.

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