Ancestry estimation from skeletal remains is a challenging task, but essential for the creation of a complete biological profile. As such, the study of human variation between populations is important for the fields of biological and forensic anthropology, as well as medicine. Cranial and dental morphological variation have traditionally been linked to geographic affinity resulting in several methods of ancestry estimation, while the postcranial skeleton has been systematically neglected. The current study explores metric variation of the tibia in six Mediterranean populations and its validity in estimating ancestry in the Mediterranean. The study sample includes 909 individuals (470 males and 439 females) from Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Turkey. The sample was divided in two subsamples: a reference and a validation sample. Multinomial regression models were created based on the reference sample and then applied to validation sample. The first model used three variables and resulted in 57% and 56% accuracy for the two samples respectively, while the second model (6 variables) resulted in 80% and 74% respectively. Classification between groups ranged from 28% to 95% for the reference sample and from 15% to 91% for the validation sample. The highest classification accuracy was noted for the Greek sample (95% and 90% for the reference and validation sample respectively), followed by the Turkish sample (74% and 78% respectively). The Spanish, Portuguese and Italian samples presented greater morphological overlap which resulted in lower classification accuracies. The results indicate that although the tibia presents considerable variation amongst neighbour populations it is not suitable as a sole skeletal element to separate all groups successfully. A combination of different skeletal elements may be required in order to achieve the levels of reliability required for forensic applications.
- Forensic anthropology
- Skeletal variation