Identifying artificially deformed crania

Jamie L. Clark, S. D. Dobson, S. C. Antón, J. Hawks, K. L. Hunley, M. H. Wolpoff

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    In this paper we report on a new discriminant function for the identification of artificially deformed crania. Development of the function, based on a sample of deformed and undeformed crania from the Philippines, required visual classification of the sample into deformed and undeformed groups. Working from the observation that deformed crania display flattened frontal and occipital regions, the sample was seriated based on degree of flattening; classification was based on the results of this seriation. The discriminant function, calculated using curvature indices, required only six simple measurements: arc and chord measurements for the frontal (glabella to bregma), parietals (bregma to lambda) and occipital (lambda to opisthion). The function was designed to be conservative, in that a deformed cranium may be classified as undeformed, but the opposite should not occur. Our function classified the undeformed crania with 100% accuracy and deformed crania with 76.9% accuracy, for a total of 91.9% agreement with visual classification. In order to evaluate whether the function is applicable for samples from outside the Philippines, a double blind test was conducted with a large sample of deformed and undeformed crania from a broad geographical and temporal range. For this sample, the function agreed with visual classification in 89.7% of cases; 98.8% of undeformed crania were correctly classified, while deformed crania were identified with 73.7% accuracy. These results demonstrate the utility of the new discriminant function for the classification of artificially deformed crania from diverse contexts.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)596-607
    Number of pages12
    JournalInternational Journal of Osteoarchaeology
    Issue number6
    StatePublished - Nov 2007


    • Artificial cranial deformation
    • Discriminant function analysis
    • Guthe collection

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Archaeology
    • Anthropology
    • Archaeology


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