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ARCHAEOLOGY > Determination of sex from a skull

Determination of sex using the skull

​Many other webpages cover apparent biological sex determination in detail, and I presently have limited examples of female skulls (due to their less robust nature, they have been broken or damaged more extensively in these historic examples). Here are the main points to look for. Images for this section will be extended in time. Note that these are guidelines only, and need to be weighed across all the information present. Event a complete skull may have contradictory or misleading indicators, and many skulls cannot be given a biological sex without DNA testing. 

Sex determination is generally ranked on a five point scale, varying on the confidence of the trait:

Female,     Female?,     ?,     Male?,     Male

This scale is marked on a range of features, which may show greater or lesser variation between the sexes depending upon ethnicity, age, lifestyle and features that have been lost by taphonomy.

As a general rule, female skulls (and skeletons) are smaller, less robust and heavy, have more rounded angles, and less pronounced muscle attachment features. However, a young, physically active and hard working woman may break many of these guidelines.

Female skulls typically (regardless of lifestyle) have a smoother and flatter brow ridge, a wider mandibular angle (the side of the jawbone), more angular, pointed chin and a sharper supra-orbital margin (the upper ridge of the eye - not easily shown on photos, much easier to feel).

Female skulls also typically have a smaller mastoid process (smaller than a "typical" thumb), less pronounced nuchal crest, a shorter temporal ridge (stopping before arching over the earhole).

See also the 360 degree images of skulls of different sexes and ethnicities on the ANATOMY page

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