Review Articles

Recent advances in sex identification of human skeletal remains in South Africa

Mubarak A. Bidmos, Victoria E. Gibbon, Goran Štrkalj
South African Journal of Science | Vol 106, No 11/12 | a238 | DOI: | © 2010 Mubarak A. Bidmos, Victoria E. Gibbon, Goran Štrkalj | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 April 2010 | Published: 15 November 2010

About the author(s)

Mubarak A. Bidmos, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Victoria E. Gibbon, Purdue University, United States
Goran Štrkalj, Macquarie University, Australia


We review methods of sex estimation from human skeletal remains in South Africa within the forensic context. Sex is one of the key variables in obtaining a biological profile of the individual or population whose remains are analysed. Sex estimation based on the morphological characteristics of skeletal elements is population specific and thus the establishment of regional criteria is one of the imperatives for modern forensic anthropology. A literature review was carried out wherein the available methods of sex identification (morphological, metrical, geometric morphometrics and molecular) from South African skeletal material were critically examined. The approaches to sex estimation based on bone morphology have a long and productive history in South Africa. A number of approaches providing accurate results on the local populations have been developed. Research in molecular sex determination methods is still in its infancy in South Africa and the first innovative studies appeared only in recent years. While each of the four methods analysed is bounded by a number of constraints, they seem to complement each other and provide the best results when applied in conjunction with each other.


discriminant function analysis; forensic anthropology; geometric morphometric; metrical method; molecular method; morphological method; sex estimation; South Africa


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