Human body mass estimation: A comparison of "morphometric" and "mechanical" methods

Benjamin M. Auerbach, Christopher B. Ruff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

220 Scopus citations


In the past, body mass was reconstructed from hominin skeletal remains using both "mechanical" methods which rely on the support of body mass by weight-bearing skeletal elements, and "morphometric" methods which reconstruct body mass through direct assessment of body size and shape. A previous comparison of two such techniques, using femoral head breadth (mechanical) and stature and bi-iliac breadth (morphometric), indicated a good general correspondence between them (Ruff et al. [1997] Nature 387:173-176). However, the two techniques were never systematically compared across a large group of modern humans of diverse body form. This study incorporates skeletal measures taken from 1,173 Holocene adult individuals, representing diverse geographic origins, body sizes, and body shapes. Femoral head breadth, bi-iliac breadth (after pelvic rearticulation), and long bone lengths were measured on each individual. Statures were estimated from long bone lengths using appropriate reference samples. Body masses were calculated using three available femoral head breadth (FH) formulae and the stature/bi-iliac breadth (STBIB) formula, and compared. All methods yielded similar results. Correlations between FH estimates and STBIB estimates are 0.74-0.81. Slight differences in results between the three FH estimates can be attributed to sampling differences in the original reference samples, and in particular, the body-size ranges included in those samples. There is no evidence for systematic differences in results due to differences in body proportions. Since the STBIB method was validated on other samples, and the FH methods produced similar estimates, this argues that either may be applied to skeletal remains with some confidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-342
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2004


  • Bi-iliac pelvic breadth
  • Body weight prediction
  • Femoral head
  • Hominin
  • Stature estimation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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