By KAREN DAILY Staff writer Forensic anthropologist and retired USC professor Ted Rathburn explained that dental records may be one of the easiest ways to identify skeletal remains but added that human bones can often hold the clue to a person's identity. Human skeletal remains found earlier this week in North Augusta are being held until Monday when dental records can be cross-referenced with the skeleton. At least one set of dental records needed for the identification process is in Atlanta, said Aiken County Coroner Tim Carlton. Although the remains found Wednesday appear to be those of a female, Carlton said he would not be certain until the bones are analyzed. By analyzing bones, a forensic anthropologist can provide a biological profile, which can include the sex, age at death, ancestry and stature of the person, said Rathburn. A teacher since 1978, Rathburn has been involved with nearly 350 cases in the Palmetto State. Many cases, however, he said are still open. Teeth are one of the best tools available for investigators. But, oftentimes, there are no dental records to cross reference, he explained. Then studying the bones is essential. Sex can only be determined in a postpubescent adult. "The pelvic area is key," he said. "Less accurate but supplemental are the various characteristics of the bones." A forensic anthropologist may look for fractures in the birth canal or whether the brow ridges are small or large. The pelvis also plays a key role in determining the age of the person at the time of death. "The key area is where the two hip bones meet," he said. They undergo regular changes that Rathburn explained are well documented in both men and women. "You can gauge anywhere from 3 to 8 years until about 60-65 ...," he explained. Changes in the skull also help identify age. "Made up of 22 separate bones, when a person is between 35 to 40, those bones start to fuse together - like a zipper," he said. A younger person's skull resembles an unzipped zipper. As a person ages, the "zipper" starts to "rust" and fuse. If there is trauma to the skull or bones, a medical examiner may be able to determine the cause of death, but that's not always easy. "You could have a gunshot or stab wound that wouldn't affect the bones," he said. But determining ancestry can often present the greatest challenge. "The critical area for observation is the facial skeleton," he said. Measurements of the nasal cavity and mouth area are essential. When determining race, an expert would express the apparent predominant ancestry, not black or white, Rathburn explained. "Then there is a formula for taking the measurements of the major bones of the arms and legs to give an estimated height," he said. Developing a profile could be done in as few as six to eight hours, but then officials rely on using missing persons cases to determine who exactly the remains belonged to. Aiken County and Richmond County sheriff's officers are currently in the process of gathering that data. Rathburn currently consults for the Joint POW Accounting Command, which provides oversight for the military's identification of skeletal remains. Contact Karen Daily at kdaily@aikenstandard.com