Cranial suture closure: A quantitative method for age estimation using laser instrumentation
Cranial suture closure has long been recognized as a character of human development related to aging. For this reason, it has been utilized for forensic and archaeological studies to determine the age at death of unidentified and skeletonized individuals. Despite remaining a popular age indicator today, studies dating back to the 19th Century have published contradictory results on the nature of this relationship. Many authors have concluded that cranial suture closure exhibits, at most, a sketchy relationship with age and should not be used as an age indicator, whereas others have supported its inclusion despite a wide range of variability. Traditional methods for assessing cranial suture closure all defined degrees of obliteration and assigned discrete scores. However, with the development of technology, new techniques may be capable of better assessing the association of cranial suture closure in age. The current study is an attempt to address cranial suture closure with a new quantitative method that utilizes laser technology. 196 black male crania from the Hamann-Todd Collection were observed. The suture landmarks established by Meindl and Lovejoy were recorded standard scores and were also scanned with the laser device, which quantifies the amount of reflected light off of a surface. The results showed that the laser device accurately and consistently quantifies light reflected through a suture joint, especially when calibrated to the surrounding bone. A general trend for the laser measurements to decrease with age was observed. It was concluded that a relationship between suture closure and age does exist, but other factors affecting suture closure should not be overlooked. Further application of the laser method, through the refinement of data collection techniques and the device used, may increase what is known on the structure and development of the skull, and may be able to more precisely elucidate the tenuous relationship between suture closure and age.
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