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Photographs of some notable specimens in an osteoarchaeology teaching collection
Female and male skull casts from 1900s
Skull blackened and polished by fenland soil
Skull cap, cranial vault and base of skull
Three views of a female articulated pelvis
Teeth worn down to reveal the softer darker dentine
The sphenoid bone, usually cradled inside the skull, isolated to reveal its structure
The occupital bone, nestled at the base of the skull
Bones of the hand, shown in lifelike position inside a resin cast
Four examples of temporal bones showing the individual differences and some elongated styloid processes
Diamond shaped impact mark to back of skull, probable cause of death and possible Viking war hammer injury
Crack from impact following the line of the sagittal suture
Male skull showing end of skull fracture from impact in back of head. Note also blackened appearance from burial in fenland soil
Skull with low cut and lost parietal bones
Deep grooves (crenulation) inside the skull, indicating high pressure
Strong features in the skull bone
Unusual skull structure including ossicles in the lambda suture area
Another skull showing lambda and lambdoid ossicles, resulting in a bulge.
Base of skull ossicles resulting in bulge. Also some small bony tumour 'homoplastic osteomas' on parietal bone
Unusual skull showing additional lambda and lambdoid bones in the back of the skull
Internal view of a skull with prominent traces of the brain blood supply
Internal view of parietal skull bones showing how suture fits together and strong traces of meningial blood vessels
Cut away skull with filaments added to show blood vessels in maxilla
Cut away skull showing shape of sinuses
Deep crenulations inside the skull indicating persistent pressure in life
Skull showing persistent frontal (metopic) suture in adulthood.
Internal view of frontal skull with smooth interla groove
Adult skull showing healed frontal suture and a supraorbital notch over right eye
Skull from Roman era, blackened and polished by black fenland soil.
Strong prominent nasal bone of a Roman era skull, indicating foreign origin
Strong indication of cut across the head indenting the skull
Illustrations of the stories written in bone, taken at a private archaeology teaching collection.
Excavated skeletons have many stories to tell. The shape of the bones describe details of the life lived - not only sex and height but also traces of times of starvation or health problems in childhood that draw lines on the bones themselves. Oddities or variations of bone formation hint at genetic traits and familial lines when found in mass excavations. Adult life is scribed in heavy accentuated muscle and tendon attachments scarring the bone as witness to a rugged life of effort of the burdens of childbearing. Injuries, survived and fatal, also tell the story of the experiences of lives past. After death, the tales are still recorded. Conditions of burial stain or polish the bones after the flesh has decayed away and tell of where they came to rest.
Certain bones are selected after excavation to illustrate different teaching points to educate future archaeologists. These special few have a future of being cared for and treasured. They will also be the forerunners of new analysis and techniques which, like carbon dating and DNA analysis could give unimaginable insights in the future to the lives long past.
A brief account of seeing this collection is in this blogpost.