An Evaluation of Techniques to Determine Handedness Derived From a Documented Skeletal Collection

Ashley Elizabeth Shidner

          Forensic anthropology and forensic sciences are being held to a higher legal standard than in the past, by Daubert v. Merrell-Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc in 1993and the most recent report from the National Academy of Sciences in 2009. In response to the call for new research in the forensic sciences, this research project conducted a critical review of methods utilized in forensic anthropology to determine an individual's handedness. Analyses included the comparison of bilateral asymmetry in long bone length, diameter and breadth of the upper and lower limb, epicondylar breadth of the humerus, asymmetry of the jugular foramen and directionality of the sagittal sulcus. A sample of 154 known individuals from the William M. Bass documented skeletal collection at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville was examined. Various metric combinations were subjected to a discriminant function analysis at the alpha level of 0.05. Non-metric pooled data were subjected to a Chi-square test of independence at an alpha level of 0.05. The results showed that none of the previously suggested indicators could accurately predict an individual's handedness. This study illustrates the importance of testing and reexamining current methods to ensure the most accurate methods are utilized in the field of forensic anthropology.