An exploration of character traits and linear measurements for sexing mountain gazelle (Gazella gazella) skeletons

Natalie D. Munro, Guy Bar-Oz, Austin C. Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The skeletal elements of mountain gazelle (Gazella gazella) have proven difficult to sex with statistical confidence due to wide overlap in the body size of the two sexes. We studied a sample of 53 modern mountain gazelle skeletons to determine which character traits and metric measurements best predict sex. The success of the character traits was determined using blind tests while the metrics were examined using discriminant function analysis. The most useful elements include the previously identified horn core, pubis and atlas, but also some new bone portions that preserve well in the archaeological record (e.g., distal tibia, distal metacarpal and metatarsal, and second phalanx). Surprisingly, two elements commonly used in sexing analyses (distal humerus and astragalus) were not among the most effective elements. Although cutting points and discriminant functions for sexing gazelle bone portions are presented here, they do not account for potential body size change and thus are not suited for direct application to archaeological assemblages. Instead, we provide guidelines for application to archaeological gazelle assemblages, most importantly a regression analysis that considers the sex ratios obtained from multiple measurements to predict the sex ratio of archaeological gazelle populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1253-1265
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to acknowledge assistance from the following individuals: Rivka Rabinovich, curator of the HUJI collections, and Judith Chupasko, collections manager of Mammalogy at the MCZ, for granting access to the modern gazelle collections; Dani Kaufman for statistical advice; Michael Kennerty for partaking in the blind tests; Gideon Hartman for statistical advice, setting up the blind tests and drafting Fig. 6 ; Hamoudi Khalaily for permission to study the Motza collection; Lidar Sapir for permission and assistance studying the Motza collection and Laura Niven and three anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on an earlier draft of this paper. This research was supported by National Science Foundation grant BCS#0618937 to NDM. NDM would like to thank Jean-Jacques Hublin, Michael Richards and the staff of the Department of Human Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany for generously hosting her while on sabbatical leave when this paper was written.


  • Character traits
  • Discriminant function analysis
  • Measurement
  • Metrics
  • Morphological characters
  • Southern Levant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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