Digital Literacy - Introduction to Spreadsheets
Ryan Durfee, instructor


Hot diggity.
Learning is sooo fun

 



LEARNING OBJECTIVES

  • Use metric measurements
  • Use a SPREADSHEET program to make a scatterplot chart
  • Recreate bone to height calculations used by forensic archaeologists
  • Hypothesize origins of the formulas for calculations

Archaeologists study people who lived in the past. Often times there are no written records of the past. Where we have nothing written, the study of a peoples' artifacts and remains (bones) becomes critical to an understanding of who these people were and what their lives were like. And sometimes, even when there is a written record of a significant historical event, historians may find conflicting or incomplete information and, in those cases, may rely upon the remains of the dead for a better understanding of what happened.

Forensics science is the use of scientific methods to solve crimes. At least, that is what the original use of forensics was. Today, many of the same tools, tests, observations used to solve crimes is helping archaeologists and historians gain a much better understanding of our past.

Today you will become a forensic archaeologist using the measurement of bones to determine what the height might have been for your subject. This is the same method a forensic archaeologist might use to determine the height from a bone or bones that may be discovered of an ancient person. Of course you will be using a living person, yourself, but other than that fact, you are doing the same work.


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Inferring Height

Your upper leg contains a large, single bone called the femur. This long bone stretches from the hip socket to the kneecap. The length of this bone can be used to roughly estimate a person's height.

MATERIALS

  • Metric ruler or tape measure with centimeters

PROCEDURE

Part 1 - Inferring Height from Femur Length

  1. Work with a partner. Identify the placement of your partner's femur bone. It is the single large bone that extends from the hip socket to the kneecap.
  2. Use a meter stick or measuring tape to determine the approximate length of this bone (in centimeters).
  3. Multiple the length of the femur by 2.6.
  4. Add 65 to this number to arrive at the approximate height of your partner in centimeters.
  5. Use a metric ruler to obtain the actual height of your partner in centimeters.
  6. To see these two numbers in inches, convert this metric measurement by dividing by 2.54.
  7. Switch roles. Now your partner measures your bone and total height. Do the calcuations, again.

Part 2 - Inferring Height from Humerus Length

  1. Work with a partner. Identify the placement of your partner's humerus bone. It is the single large bone that extends from the elbow to the shoulder socket.
  2. Use a meter stick or measuring tape to determine the approximate length of this bone (in centimeters). If the bone comes from a female subject, go to step 3. If the bone comes from a male subject, go to step 5.
  3. If the bone comes from a male subject, go to step 5. 3. If the bone comes from a female, multiply the measured length in centimeters by 3.06.
  4. Add 64.26 to this number. This final number is the approximate height of the female based upon her humerus length.
  5. If the bone comes from a male, multiply the measured length in centimeters by 3.269.
  6. Add 59.41 to this number. This final number is the approximate height of the male based upon his humerus length.
  7. Again, if you'd like to convert this numbers into inches, divide the result by 2.54.
  8. Switch roles.

Part 3 - Inferring Height from Tibia Length

  1. Work with a partner. Identify the placement of your partner's tibia bone. It is the larger central bone of the lower leg, extending from just below the kneecap to the ankle.
  2. Use a meter ruler or measuring tape to determine the approximate length of this bone (in centimeters).
  3. Use the chart below to estimate the height of your partner based upon the tibia length. This regression chart uses only three racial stocks, Caucasoid, Negroid and Mongoloid.
Race & Gender
Multiplying Unit
Amount to Add
Caucasoid male tibia in centimeters x 2.42 + 81.93
Caucasoid female tibia in centimeters x 2.90 + 61.53
Negroid male tibia in centimeters x 2.19 + 85.36
Negroid female tibia in centimeters x 2.45 + 72.56
Mongoloid male tibia in centimeters x 2.39 + 81.45
Mongoloid female not available (use Negroid female)

NOTE: Mongoloid is the major ethnic group that includes Chinese, Japanese, Eskimos, Native Americans, Siberians, Malayans, and Mongolians.

Analyzing Your Results - Think About the Following

  1. What was an advantage in using the tibia method for determining height?
  2. Which of the three methods (Part 1, Part 2 or Part 3) computed your height the most accurately?



* Adapted from Dead Men's Tale - Scientific American Frontiers

Bonus Challenge? Try The Following

Two Bones Better Than One?

Here's another equation that can be used to infer height:

Height = 1.31 (length of femur in centimeters + length of fibula in centimeters) + 63.05

As you can see, this calculation requires two bone length measurements, the femur (upper leg bone) and the fibula (lower leg bone), to arrive at this value. Compare and contrast the use of this calculation with your previous estimation techniques.

A BIGGER CHALLENGE: Gather data; scatter plot, line of best fit, create a formula

Gather data for heights of students in your class as well as a measurement of a bone, or two. Record this data in a spreadsheet (Microsoft Excel) and graph using a scatter plot. Find a line of best fit and see if there is a relationship you can identify and put into a formula, like the formulas you used to calculate height from bones. Perhaps start with the humerus bone.

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