Facial soft tissue depths in craniofacial identification (part I): An analytical review of the published adult data

J Forensic Sci. 2008 Nov;53(6):1257-72. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2008.00852.x. Epub 2008 Sep 9.


With the ever increasing production of average soft tissue depth studies, data are becoming increasingly complex, less standardized, and more unwieldy. So far, no overarching review has been attempted to determine: the validity of continued data collection; the usefulness of the existing data subcategorizations; or if a synthesis is possible to produce a manageable soft tissue depth library. While a principal components analysis would provide the best foundation for such an assessment, this type of investigation is not currently possible because of a lack of easily accessible raw data (first, many studies are narrow; second, raw data are infrequently published and/or stored and are not always shared by some authors). This paper provides an alternate means of investigation using an hierarchical approach to review and compare the effects of single variables on published mean values for adults whilst acknowledging measurement errors and within-group variation. The results revealed: (i) no clear secular trends at frequently investigated landmarks; (ii) wide variation in soft tissue depth measures between different measurement techniques irrespective of whether living persons or cadavers were considered; (iii) no clear clustering of non-Caucasoid data far from the Caucasoid means; and (iv) minor differences between males and females. Consequently, the data were pooled across studies using weighted means and standard deviations to cancel out random and opposing study-specific errors, and to produce a single soft tissue depth table with increased sample sizes (e.g., 6786 individuals at pogonion).

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical*
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Face / anatomy & histology*
  • Facial Bones / anatomy & histology
  • Forensic Anthropology / methods*
  • Humans
  • Needles
  • Racial Groups
  • Sex Characteristics