Jamie M Gomez ACF Abstract FY11

"Does practice make perfect? A test of the effect of experience on age-at-death estimation using Transition Analysis"

American Association of Physical Anthropologists 80th Annual Meeting


The estimation of age-at-death with some degree of statistical certainty is a key
component of any osteological analysis that seeks to extract biological information from
an individual or reveal the demographic structure of a skeletal population. Transition
Analysis (TA) has emerged as a valuable statistical tool for obtaining robust age estimates
that circumvents many of the statistical problems that plague other, traditional, methods.
Moreover, the multiple-trait, component scoring approach associated with TA (Boldsen et
al. 2002) is known to be a promising alternative to the single indicator methods when
dealing with unknown, incomplete, and fragmentary cases. For these reasons, we believe
that the TA approach merits more refined testing. This project evaluates the effect of
education and experience on the age estimates obtained. We are concerned, specifically,
with the ease of learning and repeatability when TA is applied by a practitioner who is
familiar with age estimation theory but has minimal TA experience. We pose the
following questions: (1) how interpretable are the criteria? (2) are some components more
difficult to score than others? (3) how repeatable, and, so, reliable are the age estimates
produced? (4) do TA scores, and, in turn, age estimates improve with practice? (5) are the
patterns of intraobserver error and repeatability consistent between male and female
specimens? Data for this study was collected on the Suchey-Brooks pubic symphysis
casts: specimens were assigned unbiased identifiers, selected at random and repeatedly
"blind"-scored over a two month period. Special attention was paid to the date and
conditions of the analysis in order to detect patterned results and tests of intraobserver
variation were conducted. Pedagogical and practical-use recommendations are provided.

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