Parturition Scars

Presented by ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific and ANU College of Health & Medicine

The ability to identify whether a female has been pregnant or has given birth has significant implications for forensic investigations and bioarchaeological research. The meaning of “scars of parturition,” their causes, and their significance are a matter of contention, with a substantial literature of re-evaluations and tests of the relationship between pelvic scarring and parity. This presentation will discuss the methods and outcomes of recent research which aimed to identify whether pelvic scarring, namely dorsal pubic pitting and the preauricular groove, is a predictor of parity and sex. The research utilised meta-analytic techniques which are commonly used in other social sciences and medical studies, but have been rarely employed in physical anthropology or archaeology. This research demonstrates the way in which meta-analyses can assist us in resolving conflicting results and can produce new and significant implications from existing data. In applying these techniques to the issue of scars of parturition, the relationship between scars, parity and sex has been clarified and a pathway for further investigations has been identified.

Clare is a PhD candidate at the School of Archaeology and Anthropology, ANU. Her studies have focussed on bioarchaeology, palaeopathology and forensic anthropology. As an undergraduate student she published a paper in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, reaffirming the accuracy of the Phenice sex estimation method. Her Honours research investigated the validity of so-called “scars of parturition”, with the results published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences. Her PhD research aims to evaluate methodologies employed by bioarchaeologists and palaeoanthropologists to examine diet, health and stress.