The sexing of human skeletal remains is important for identification and demographic purposes. It is made more difficult when elements such as the skull and pelvis are not recovered or are in too poor of a condition to assess. Previous studies have used carpal (wrist) bones of contemporary populations to assess the viability of these skeletal elements exhibiting sexual dimorphism, as these bones are small, compact elements that are usually recovered in good condition. This study evaluates the use of carpal bones recovered from an ancient Maya population from Belize to determine the biological sex of individuals. The study sample is part of the Maya Archaeological Skeletal Collection (MASC), which contains individuals from the sites of Lamanai, San Pedro, Altun Ha, and Marco Gonzalez and dates from the Late Maya Pre-Classic (400 BC-AD 250) to the Spanish Colonial period (AD 1521-1821). Multiple measurements were taken on 36 capitate, 34 lunate, 34 scaphoid, 27 trapezium, 24 hamate, 22 triquetral, 22 trapezoid, and 16 pisiform bones from several individuals. Discriminant function analysis was used to determine if sexual dimorphism is measurable in this population using these elements. Previous studies used populations with known identities, assessing individuals from crypts, graveyards, or medical collections from the last few centuries. This study varies from previous studies as it utilizes archaeological remains, making this study one of the first to evaluate non-contemporary remains with unknown sex. Results of this study demonstrate that this population exhibits sexual dimorphism and discriminant function analysis can be used to distinguish between two groups. This demonstrates that carpals could be used to help determine biological sex of archaeological populations as well as a tool to help with identification in forensic cases.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Williams, Lana


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Sciences





Access Status

Open Access

Release Date