Heather Robertson

Research Key Words:

Bioarchaeology; Human Osteology; Sex Estimation; Human Skeletal Variation; Geometric Morphometircs;  Human hipbone morphology

PhD Research Project:

My project focuses on understanding the sex-based shape variation in the human hipbone.  The hipbone is the best osteological indicator of sex because it’s morphology signifies the presence or absence of the biological function for childbirth.  However, the hipbone is also the subject of variations in body size and body mass sexual dimorphism, which can differ among populations.  Body size and mass are also influenced by environmental and clinal fluctuation, hormonal variances, and gendered practices, which often conflate interpretations of sex in bioarchaeology.  Shape analysis of the human hipbone can account for body size and mass variations and allow for true sex differences to be analysed and modeled, to be used as a new method of sex estimation in bioarchaeology.  I will execute my research on 3D models of left and right hipbones from individuals of known sex and apply geometric morphometric analyses of shape.  The goals of my research are first, to determine if shape-based sex differences can be used as a reliable and reproducible method for estimating sex from different populations.  Second, to ascertain whether morphological variation of the human hip bone can be adequately captured on a graduating scale of sex estimation.  My research objectives are: 1) categorize the sex differences on a scale of morphological variation;  2)identify the landmarks on the hip bone that accurately represent sex differences; and 3) test the accuracy and repeatability of the proposed method on an independent skeletal population.  Accurate estimates of sex will lead to the development of a new method of sex estimation using geometric morphometrics and the standardization of hipbone landmarks for future in bioarchaeology.

B.A. Archaeology, Simon Fraser University,  2004
Major: Archaeology, Minor: Criminology

M.A. Anthropology, University of Victoria, 2013
Master’s thesis title: “A Geometric Morphometric Approach to Sex Estimation”
Supervisor: Dr. Helen Kurki

PhD Supervisor: Dr Darlene Weston


Robertson HI.  2007.  Review of The Body as Material Culture: A Theoretical Osteoarchaeology, by Joanna R. Sofaer.  Canadian Journal of Archaeology.  31(1): 140-142.

Conference Presentations:

Robertson H. 2009. The feasibility of HR-pQCT for imaging and analysis of archaeological human bone. Canadian Association of Physical Anthropology. Vancouver, BC.

Robertson HI. 2013. What is Geometric Morphometrics? UBC Anthropology Graduate Student Association Talks. Vancouver, BC.

Conference Posters:

Robertson HI. 2014. A correlation between non-metric sex traits and hip bone shape. American Association of Physical Anthropologists conferences. Calgary AB.

Robertson HI. 2014. A geometric morphometric study of sex-based shape differences in the human hip bone. UBC Anthropology Research Open House. Vancouver BC.

Zhang HG, Edinborough K, Fonseca S, Goldberg P, Mathewes R, Northey D, Robertson H, Skinner M, Speller C, Yang D. 2009. Origin of a suspected ‘trophy skull’ with dried soft tissue: multidisciplinary input. Canadian Association of Physical Anthropology. Vancouver, BC.

Winter 2019

ANTH213 Sex, Gender, and Culture Sections

An anthropological exploration of how understandings of sex and gender are culturally and historically shaped.

ARCL 228 001 Forensic Anthropology
ARCL 140 921 Bones: The Origins of Humanity

UBC Four Year Fellowships (FYF) For PhD Students, 2014

UBC Faculty of Arts Graduate Award, 2013