Toward the adoption of cementochronology in forensic context
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Because acellular dental cementum is considered to be formed continually throughout life and to not undergo remodeling processes, cementochronology is considered to be a method with the potential for directly assessing chronological age. Considering that most previous studies on humans have assumed the superior performance of this method, it is surprising that this technique is not more widely adopted in anthropology. To understand this controversy, we highlight that there is no standardized procedure for sample preparation. The numerous technical approaches that exist impact the reliability of the method, and the recent creation of an international work group (Cementochronology Research Program) demonstrates the need for researchers to share their experience to overcome these obstacles. This paper aims to address this paradox by debating the aspects that contribute to the limited use of this method and by illustrating its potential through an application on forensic cases. A protocol, which was recently certified according to the ISO-9001, was applied to nine anthropological cases from the Forensic Medicine Institute of Lille (northern France) and compared with routine osteological and dental methods. The results show that traditional methods matched the known age due to the wide extent of their range, while the accuracy and precision of cementochronological estimates was also notable. This paper establishes that cementochronology may serve as a particularly important tool for age estimation for forensic anthropologists and should, at least, be used in addition to other methods.
KeywordsForensic anthropology Cementochronology Age-at-death estimation Dental cementum
The authors thank L. Bernard and P. Demolon of the Direction de l’Archéologie de la Communauté d’Agglomération du Douaisis (Douai, France) who granted access to the “Physical Analysis and Materials Characterization Laboratory.” We would also like to thank M. Lemoine for his help. The authors thank the editor and the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments, which helped us to improve the manuscript.
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