Analytical science: Secrets of the Mary Rose
Analytical science: Secrets of the Mary Rose

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Analytical science: Secrets of the Mary Rose

4.1 Determining the gender of the crew

It is not always obvious when dealing with remains, particularly in archaeology, what the gender of the deceased was. For humans, a wealth of information can be provided by the body to help to determine their gender, by comparing skeletal structure (Figure 6):

  • the skull - in males, the skull typically has a more prominent brow and larger lower jaw bone (mandible) than in females
  • the clavicle (collar bone) - males typically have straighter, thicker clavicles than females (who may have a more V-shaped collar bone)
  • the rib cage - females generally have a shorter rib cage than males of similar height
  • the sternum - the central breast bone is typically broader and longer in males than in females
  • the pelvis - the female pelvis is wider and has a much larger cavity compared with the male pelvis, which is typically more enclosed
  • the tibia (shin bone) - females generally have thinner tibias than males.
Figure 6 Comparison of male and female skeletons, showing the key differences and the main bones used in analysis.

Carefully measuring and comparing the size and shape of bones from adult human remains and comparing them with modern-day records is a means of determining gender with a relatively high level of certainty. Although the gender cannot be definitively determined from measurements of a single bone, by combining evidence from several bones, or using this evidence in conjunction with other information, it is possible to improve the certainty of gender identification. All of the 92 complete skeletons on the Mary Rose were male (Stirland, 2005). Some were adolescents and at least one was a child, but it is not generally possible to determine the gender of adolescents and children from the size and shape of the bones, as the skeleton continues to grow at varying rates until late adolescence (or early adulthood).

Gender can also be determined by analysing aDNA (ancient DNA) when only bone fragments or organic remains are preserved.

Karyotyping is used to identify the presence of X or Y chromosomes.

  • What chromosomal pairing would you expect to see for (a) females and (b) males?

  • (a) Females will exhibit an XX pairing and (b) males an XY pairing.

S240_2x

Take your learning further371

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses372.

If you are new to university level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. Find out Where to take your learning next?373 You could either choose to start with an Access courses374or an open box module, which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification.

Not ready for University study then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn375 and sign up to our newsletter376 to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371