Human Race is defined as the biological grouping within human beings distinguished or classified according to genetically transmitted differences. Race is a population concept. The population of the world is divided into three types of races namely Caucasians or Caucasoid, Mongolians or mongoloids, negro or negroids. Race can be determined by eyes, hairs, complexion, physical features, teeth, skeletal characteristics, and indices.

Determination of race is difficult from bones because racial traits are not so marked and also because there is so much ethnic mixing taking place. The skull offers better evidence according to Krogman and Iscan. Race can be determined in almost 90-95% using a skull. Amongst long bones, the femur is the best indicator. Todd and Lindala (1928) describe the racial difference in the pelvis.

Determination of human race is an important factor especially when the identity of the deceased is unknown. When a body is completely decomposed or in an unidentifiable stage, the determination of class characters like sex, age, and race along with individual identification marks helps to establish the identity of the person.   

Identification Features of Human Race

Race Determination Using Skull

Human Race can be determined from morphological features and cephalic index (CI). The cephalic index is measured as the maximum breadth of the skull multiplied by 100 and divided by the maximum length of the skull.

Cephalic Index= maximum breadth of the skull * 100 / maximum length of the skull.

Type of SkullCephalic IndexRace
Dolichocephalic (long-headed)70-75Pure Aryans, negroes, aborigines
Mesaticephalic (medium-headed)75-80Europeans, Chinese
Brachycephalic (short-headed)80-85Mongolians
Skull shapeRoundedNarrow and elongatedSquare
Skull lengthLong to shortLongLong
Skull breadthNarrow to broadNarrowBroad
Skull heightHighLowMiddle
Sagittal contourRoundedFlatArched
Face breadthNarrow to wideNarrowVery wide
Face heightHighLowHigh
Orbital openingAngular to roundedRectangularRounded
Nasal openingNarrowWideNarrow
Lower nasal marginsSharpTrough or gutteredSharp
Nasal profileStraightDownward slantstraight
Palate shape.NarrowWideMedium
Nasal index<0.480.48-0.53>0.53
Nasal spineProminent spineSomewhat prominent spineVery small spine
Nasal slicing/gutteringSharpe ridgeRounded ridgeNo ridge
The shape of the orbital openingOvalRounded,  somewhat circularRectangular or square

Race Determination Using Mandible

According to Schultz (1933), Caucasians and Mongolians have larger breadth, higher and narrower ramus, greater gonial angle, Ramal surface more parallel to the median sagittal plane, protrusive chin, and mental tubercles placed more lateral in position.

In Negroids lower, wider, and more vertical ramus, small breadth, less prominent chin, greater dental arch length, mental tubercles are placed more medially in position and are smaller.  

Race Determination Using Femur

Morphological features, bone length, and index can be used to identify race from the femur.  

According to Stewart (1962) and Walensky (1965), the anterior curvature of the femur in Negroids is much straighter whereas in fair people the femur is bowed forward. In American Indians, the femur has a greater anterior curvature and a more distal positioning of the point of maximum curvature. The bone length of both males and females is more in black than in white males and females. Crural index, intermembral index, brachial index, and humero-femoral index is used to differentiate between the races.  

Crural Index: length of tibia * 100/ length of the femur

Intermembral Index: length of humerus + length of radius * 100/ length of the femur + length of the tibia

Brachial: length of radius * 100/ length of the humerus

Humerofemoral Index: length of humerus * 100 / length of the femur.

Crural index86.4989.386.2
Brachial index76.4975.578.5
Humerofemoral index71.116972.4
Intermembral index67.2770.470.3

Race Determination Using Pubic Symphysis

Human race can be identified using morphology, interspinous diameter, bi-iliac diameter.

PopulationIntespinous DiameterBi-Iliac Diameter
American Indian226257


Race determination helps in forming a person’s biological profile employed by the forensic anthropologist for the identification of a person. Even in the situation of mass disasters, race identification plays a crucial role.

It can be extremely difficult to determine the true race of a skeleton because Forensic anthropologists generally use a three-race model to categorize skeletal traits: Caucasian (European), Asian (Asian/American-Indian), and African (African and West Indian).

Not all individuals have skeletal traits that are completely consistent with their geographic origin. People of mixed racial ancestry are common. Oftentimes, a skeleton exhibits characteristics of more than one racial group and does not fit neatly into the three-race model.

The vast majority of the skeletal indicators used to determine race are non-metric (not involving measurements) traits that can be highly subjective. Despite these drawbacks, race determination is viewed as a critical part of the overall identification of an individual’s remains. 


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