An evaluation of determination of handedness using standard osteological measurements

Marie E. Danforth, University of Southern Mississippi
Andrew Thompson, University of Southern Mississippi


Numerous studies have assessed side dominance assuming arm bones on the side of handedness will be larger, but concerns over sample size or replicability of measurements usually emerged. Attempting to improve upon these limitations, this investigation analyzes patterns of side difference for standard length and transverse dimensions of the scapula, clavicle, humerus, ulna, and radius for 137 individuals of known handedness. The results showed that with few exceptions, the right side of the skeleton was consistently larger in most individuals regardless of side dominance. Combinations of other measurements previously suggested to be indicative of handedness as well as the use of discriminant analysis also failed to provide reliable estimators. These findings are likely related to the fact that activities of modern individuals are generally not sufficiently unilateral in their stresses to cause asymmetrical development in the arm bones. Therefore, it is recommended that other means be developed to assess side dominance.