Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Charles Hilton

Second Advisor

Dr. Robert Anemone

Third Advisor

Dr. Robert Ulin

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


This project examines the utility of vertebral osteophyte development to estimate age at death. Skeletal joint degeneration is a common method for estimating individuals' age at death, however studies regarding vertebral degeneration and age estimation are lacking. My study follows the work of Stewart (1958) in comparing stages of osteophytic lipping of vertebral bodies to age at death.

I examined the seventh cervical (C7), seventh thoracic (T7), and fourth lumbar (L4) vertebrae in 100 individuals of known ancestry, sex, and age at death from the Hamann-Todd skeletal collection. Degenerative stages and composite scores were analyzed through descriptive statistics and chi square analysis. Results of the study are similar to those of Stewart (1958). High degrees of lipping are typical of middle and older aged individuals, while lower stages of lipping are too widespread among age groups for accurate age assessment. In comparisons between males and females, and between Afro-Americans and Euro-Americans, there were no great differences between these groups. Overall, vertebral degenerative rates are not good indicators of age, although accuracy for estimating age is greater in individuals with the highest levels of osteophyte development.

Included in

Anthropology Commons