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Ways to Identify Human Bones

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Rebecca Manchester

on 11 June 2014

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Transcript of Ways to Identify Human Bones

Kelly, R. & Thmoas, D. (2010) Archaeology, Wadsworth.

Introduction to human bones. (2013) Retrieved from Spoilheap Archaeology website http://www.spoilheap.co.uk/hsr1.htm.
The best way to classify skeletons by age is in three categories: young, middle-aged and old.
The simplest way to age is by looking at the ends of the long bones and parts of some other bones as they are detached in children's skeletons. These detached parts are known as epiphyses, and they all fuse at different ages. The stage of fusion of the bones can therefore be used to age an adolescent. Before this, the most reliable method is to study the developmental stage of the teeth.
Sexing a skeleton is very difficult. The best indicators of sex in the skeleton are to be found in the pelvis. This is because one of the major biological differences between men and women, that of having babies, largely determines the shape of that part of the body. A woman's pelvis is wide and bowl-shaped whilst a man's is tall and narrow.
Metric Analysis
Metric analysis involves using standard measurements defined in the 19th and 20th centuries for recording the size of various attributes of the human skeleton: the length, breadth and height of the skull and facial bones, and the lengths of long bones. This information is used in comparison of bones across sites.
Non-Metric Traits
Non-metric traits are basically abnormalities in the skeleton. Their presence or absence can tell us about family relationships within a group, and they can also be used for comparisons between groups.
Some examples would be Wormian bones (extra bones that occur between the plates of the skull vault), Vertebral traits (there are many possibilities for variety within the human spine), and Tori (bony protuberances which appear to be genetic in origin. Mandibular tori are known to be particularly common in some groups of people, particularly the Inuit)

Techniques of Analyzing Human Bones
The normal average in most Roman to medieval groups was around 5' 7" for males and 5' 3" for females. Changes in the cranial index occur through time; there is a general increase from the Saxon to the Medieval period, with rounder heads in the latter.
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