Session on. 8. 2011: Who's buried in there?, by Christine Suter
Who’s Buried in There? By Christine Suter Necropolis Section 9 - 2011
What Can Human Bones Tell Us?• Sex of the individual• Age of the individual at the time of death• Pathologies (diseases)
Age Determination• Age can be determined by marked changes that occur in the human skeleton throughout a person’s life.• Three ways to determine a person’s age at the time of death are by examining: – Tooth eruption patterns – Epipyseal fusion
Tooth Eruption• Tooth eruption patterns are one way of trying to determine the age of an individual at the time of death.• All human beings are genetically programmed to have similar tooth eruption patterns.• Humans have both deciduous (baby teeth) and permanent teeth. If you only have the teeth from a skeleton and not the entire jaw, you may determine the individual’s age by examining which deciduous and which permanent teeth are present, as well as the stage of development of the roots on the permanent teeth.
Epiphyseal Fusion• The long bones of the human skeleton are made up of two parts: – The diaphysis – The epiphysis• At birth these parts are not fused together. There is a segment of cartilage between them called the epiphyseal disk. As the bones ages this cartilage ossifies (turns into bone).
Epiphyseal Fusion• The fusion of the diaphysis to the epiphysis characteristically takes place in humans at certain ages depending on the bone. The clavicle (collar bone) is the last bone to fuse and this takes place usually at the age of 28.• The age of a human at death can be determined by examining which bones of the skeleton are fused and which are not.
Determining Sex• There are certain morphological differences between the male and female skeleton, but there are some specific areas of the skeleton in which these differences are more easy to identify: – The pelvis – The skull – The vertebrae
The Skull and Vertebral Column• In the skull the madible (jawbone), nuchal crest, and mastoid process tend to be more robust in males. Males also usually have a wider forehead and more prominent brow ridge than females.• In the vertebral column, the atlas (the first vertebrae) is usually wider and more robust in males and the male sacrum is usually a bit longer and a bit more narrow than in females.
Sex Differences in the Pelvis• It is usually easiest to determine the sex of a skeleton by examining the pelvis.• The pelvic basin is larger in females to accommodate childbirth.
Sex Differences in the Pelvis• The female pelvis also has a wide sciatic notch while on males it is narrow and deep.• On the male pelvis, the acetabulum is usually larger because it is connected to a larger femoral head. The sacrum is also a bit narrower and curved inward more than in females.
References• Bass, William M. Human Osteology: A Laboratory Field Manual 5th edition. Massouri Archaeological Society Inc. Springfield, Mo. 2005• Brothwell, DR. Digging Up Bones. Oxford Universit Press. London. 1981• www.dentistry.qmul.ac.uk – Queen Mary University