Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Committee Member

Bernardo Arriaza

Number of Pages



This research took an age-related condition, diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) and used it to create a new technique for estimating the age at death of older human skeletal remains (age ≥40). Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis is a condition characterized spinally by ossification of the anterior longitudinal ligament resulting in fusion of vertebrae; and extraspinally by enthesopathies, ossification at sites of ligament or muscle attachments. Using the Terry Collection, housed at the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, 1728 human skeletons of known age at death were analyzed looking for evidence of spinal DISH. Found in 94 individuals, the level of DISH was scored and measured. The measurements taken from these individuals were correlated to age at death using Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient tests. Regression equations were created based on the correlations and produced R-square values of 52% for incipient/mild males, 41% for moderate/severe males, 85% for incipient/mild females and 91% for moderate/severe females, meaning that DISH is a good indicator of age at death, especially in females. This research is unique in that most techniques for age estimation reach their maximum at about 60 years, while the DISH-based technique presented in this thesis can reliably age people into their early 100s. Thus the results of this research make a valuable contribution to the field of physical anthropology.


Age; Death; Determine; Diffuse; Hyperostosis; Idiopathic; Skeletal

Controlled Subject

Physical anthropology

File Format


File Size

4352 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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