Geographic Variation in Zygomaxillary Suture Morphology and its Use in Ancestry Estimation

Scott D. Maddux, Alexandria N. Sporleder, Casey E. Burns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Angled/curved zygomaxillary suture coding is widely employed in cranial assessments of ancestry. However, the efficacy of this method has not been extensively evaluated across diverse populations. In this study, zygomaxillary suture morphology was assessed on a total of 411 human crania from six populations (European, Native American, African, Asian, Arctic Circle, and Aboriginal Australian) using a novel 3D coordinate landmark method. Our results indicate a predominance of angled sutures among native peoples of the Arctic and North America (85-86%), a prevalence of curved sutures among Africans and Aboriginal Australians (77-81%), and essentially equal proportions of both configurations in Asians and Europeans (50-56%). Statistically, angled/curved coding generally discriminates poorly between groups, except when populations with antithetically high frequencies of the two configurations (e.g., African vs. Native American) are compared. Moreover, comparisons across previous studies reveal conflicting frequencies for many populations, further suggesting limited utility of this trait in ancestry estimation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)966-973
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2015


  • Ancestry
  • Anthropology
  • Forensic science
  • Nonmetric traits
  • Osteology
  • Zygomaticomaxillary suture


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