Can You Tell Which Skull Is Which?

12.10.2013 |

Skull Abstract header

A recent study from NC State forensic anthropologists found that even forensic experts have a hard time making a positive identification of human remains based on the shape of a person’s skull.

Specifically, only 56 percent of forensic anthropology Ph.D.s (the bone experts) could correctly match two images of the same skull, based solely on the “cranial vault outline” of the skull – the side profile of the skull running from just above the bridge of the nose to the point where the skull and neck meet.

To give you some idea of how tricky this can be, we decided to let readers take the test themselves.

Below, you will find 14 antemortem skull X-rays and five postmortem skull X-rays. You need to match the 5 postmortem X-rays with the appropriate antemortem X-ray, effectively establishing a positive ID. Let’s see how you do!

The five postmortem X-rays are numbered as follows: 1=top left, 2=left center, 3=bottom left, 4= top right, and 5 = bottom right. You can click on the images to enlarge them, and answers are at the bottom of the post.

Antemortem X-rays

Skull xray one 600

Postmortem X-rays

Skull xray two 600

A paper describing the work, “A Radiographic Study on the Utility of Cranial Vault Outlines for Positive Identifications,” is published online in the Journal of Forensic Sciences. You can also read more about the research, including quotes from the researchers, here.

Answers: 1=E, 2=J, 3=D,4= I,5= H



5 Responses to “Can You Tell Which Skull Is Which?”

  1. […] who have Ph.D.s did slightly better, with 56 percent of them getting all five correct. (The test has been made available here so that anyone can take […]

  2. […] who have Ph.D.s did slightly better, with 56 percent of them getting all five correct. (The test has been made available so that anyone can take […]

  3. […] who have Ph.D.s did slightly better, with 56 percent of them getting all five correct. (The test has been made available here so that anyone can take […]

  4. Amelia says:

    Got them all correct!

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