Faculty Mentor

Norman C. Sullivan


Kaelin Rapport is a senior majoring in anthropology. Kaelin is an Ignatius/Magis Scholarship recipient. He enjoys basketball and reading. After graduation in May 2015 he plans to pursue graduate study immediately after college.



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Determining the sex of skeletons is problematic in forensic and bio-archaeological research. Past studies demonstrate that bone cells can sometimes contain preserved sex chromosomal material in ancient samples. The sex chromosomes in skeletal remains may allow determination of sex in non-adults. The problem is explored by making 20μ thin sections stained with hematoxylin eosin. The dye highlights inactive X chromosomes (Barr Bodies) of females. The presence of the Barr Body is an indicator of female with an accuracy of greater than 99.9. This approach to identification of sex in unknown skeletons has been demonstrated with remains of individuals deceased as long as 25 years. Intact bone cells have also been observed in Neanderthal and Sauropod fossils and likely contain sex chromosomes. The degree to which bone cells preserve in archaeologically derived skeletal remains is explored here. A sample of 22 thin sections was created and examined for intact bone cells. The survivorship rate of bone cells in this sample is .12. Exposure to moisture facilitates bacterial activity and this is noted to be the single most important variable in determining the degree of preservation of histological structure. This technique has the potential of providing an accurate means of determining sex in non-adult skeletons. This will greatly assist forensic investigators and open new research trajectories into life-ways and life experiences in past populations.

Publication Date

Fall 2014


Anthropology | Biological and Physical Anthropology

Kaelin Rapport - Histological Techniques for the Sex Determination of Skeletonized Human Remains