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Photographs of some notable specimens in an osteoarchaeology teaching collection
Five views of the sphenoidThe sphenoid bone, usually cradled inside the skull, isolated to reveal its structure
Four temporal bonesFour examples of temporal bones showing the individual differences and some elongated styloid processes
Anglo-Saxon deathDiamond shaped impact mark to back of skull, probable cause of death and possible Viking war hammer injury
Puzzled Anglo-SaxonMale skull showing end of skull fracture from impact in back of head. Note also blackened appearance from burial in fenland soil
Unusual bone growthsBase of skull ossicles resulting in bulge. Also some small bony tumour 'homoplastic osteomas' on parietal bone
Inside view of ossiclesUnusual skull showing additional lambda and lambdoid bones in the back of the skull
Path of blood vesselsInternal view of parietal skull bones showing how suture fits together and strong traces of meningial blood vessels
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.