Epiphyseal union sequencing: aiding in the recognition and sorting of commingled remains

Maureen Schaefer, Sue M. Black

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    40 Citations (Scopus)


    The presence of accessory osseous material within a seemingly single individual assemblage has the potential to result in misidentification of the remains. Detection of nonrelated material relies on the anthropologist being able to recognize incongruities among the elements. Inconsistencies in developmental status provide evidence to suggest that commingling may have occurred. Analyzing the sequence in which the various epiphyses unite can help to identify outlying elements that do not match the predicted developmental pattern of the remaining skeleton, thus indicating that the element may not belong to that individual. This paper considers the sequence in which 21 various epiphyses of the body unite to serve as a reference for identifying incongruent fusing patterns within a commingled assemblage. Two hundred and fifty-eight male individuals of Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) descent between the ages of 14 and 30 years were included for analysis. Sequence order was determined for both ‘‘beginning’’ and ‘‘complete’’ union by comparing the fusing status of each epiphysis with each of the other 21 epiphyses. Considering both sequence patterns provides a wider spectrum of evidence from which to recognize incongruities than either sequence pattern could provide in isolation. Variations to the majority sequence pattern were also included to ensure that skeletons displaying less popular but acceptable sequence patterns would not be mistakenly considered as two individuals when using this research as a reference. Although substantial variation in the order in which epiphyses initiate and complete union was discovered within the sample, most epiphyseal relationships did not display any variable patterns. These ‘‘unvaried’’ relationships will be most useful in recognizing the presence of incongruent material if the pattern within an assemblage does not conform to the pattern documented in this study. Figures demonstrating the two sequence patterns are provided for easy application in the field.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)277-285
    Number of pages9
    JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007


    • Forensic science
    • Epiphyseal union
    • Forensic
    • Skeleton
    • Commingling
    • Juvenile
    • Balkans
    • Bosnia


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