Osteoarchaeology

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Photographs of some notable specimens in an osteoarchaeology teaching collection

Casts
Casts

Female and male skull casts from 1900s

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Fenland skull three views
Fenland skull three views

Skull blackened and polished by fenland soil

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Six views of a skull
Six views of a skull

Skull cap, cranial vault and base of skull

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Pelvis triptych
Pelvis triptych

Three views of a female articulated pelvis

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Teeth worn to the dentine
Teeth worn to the dentine

Teeth worn down to reveal the softer darker dentine

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Five views of the sphenoid
Five views of the sphenoid

The sphenoid bone, usually cradled inside the skull, isolated to reveal its structure

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Three views of the occupital
Three views of the occupital

The occupital bone, nestled at the base of the skull

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Position in hand bones in resin
Position in hand bones in resin

Bones of the hand, shown in lifelike position inside a resin cast

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Four temporal bones
Four temporal bones

Four examples of temporal bones showing the individual differences and some elongated styloid processes

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Anglo-Saxon death
Anglo-Saxon death

Diamond shaped impact mark to back of skull, probable cause of death and possible Viking war hammer injury

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Anglo-Saxon injury
Anglo-Saxon injury

Crack from impact following the line of the sagittal suture

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Puzzled Anglo-Saxon
Puzzled Anglo-Saxon

Male skull showing end of skull fracture from impact in back of head. Note also blackened appearance from burial in fenland soil

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Deep cut skull cap
Deep cut skull cap

Skull with low cut and lost parietal bones

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Crenulated cranial bones
Crenulated cranial bones

Deep grooves (crenulation) inside the skull, indicating high pressure

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Male eyebrow ridge
Male eyebrow ridge

Strong features in the skull bone

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Lambda and lambdoid suture bone
Lambda and lambdoid suture bone

Unusual skull structure including ossicles in the lambda suture area

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Ossicles
Ossicles

Another skull showing lambda and lambdoid ossicles, resulting in a bulge.

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Unusual bone growths
Unusual bone growths

Base of skull ossicles resulting in bulge. Also some small bony tumour 'homoplastic osteomas' on parietal bone

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Inside view of ossicles
Inside view of ossicles

Unusual skull showing additional lambda and lambdoid bones in the back of the skull

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Prominent meningeal vessels
Prominent meningeal vessels

Internal view of a skull with prominent traces of the brain blood supply

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Path of blood vessels
Path of blood vessels

Internal view of parietal skull bones showing how suture fits together and strong traces of meningial blood vessels

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Blood to the teeth
Blood to the teeth

Cut away skull with filaments added to show blood vessels in maxilla

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Sagittal section of skull
Sagittal section of skull

Cut away skull showing shape of sinuses

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Inside the frontal skull
Inside the frontal skull

Deep crenulations inside the skull indicating persistent pressure in life

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Metopic suture
Metopic suture

Skull showing persistent frontal (metopic) suture in adulthood.

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Normal frontal skull bone
Normal frontal skull bone

Internal view of frontal skull with smooth interla groove

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Supraorbital notch
Supraorbital notch

Adult skull showing healed frontal suture and a supraorbital notch over right eye

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Roman fenland skull
Roman fenland skull

Skull from Roman era, blackened and polished by black fenland soil.

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Nasal bone
Nasal bone

Strong prominent nasal bone of a Roman era skull, indicating foreign origin

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Cut to the head
Cut to the head

Strong indication of cut across the head indenting the skull

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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.