You are on page 1of 6


Dem(onstration): Bones.
It's time to look at human osteology.
So, what are, are these real dead people?
>> These are casts of real people, that
we use especially for teaching.
And they sort of, highlight a number of
the key things that we like to look for
in the human skeleton when we're studying
In any context, including archaeological
>> So what, wha, what can, what can it
tell us?
>> Well, we've got 206 bones in the
average human body, average adult human
It varies by individual.
>> I didn't know that, huh.
>> So for example, I've got a, I've got
a nephew that's got an extra, vertebra
and ribs, so he's got 209.
And you actually have more in the
subadult skeleton than in the child
As you can see here with this femur.
And the reason why I brought this child
skeleton is to emphasize something that's
important for all aspects of looking at
human bones.
Which is that to think about bones as a
dynamic tissue.
We oftentimes think of the skeleton as
sort of this
>> Hm.
>> Inert part of our body.
>> Right.
>> That doesn't change over time, and
in fact, it's like all the rest of our
tissues, they change over time.
And, really they record sort of the
history of a human life, and so obviously
very important for archaeologists.
And so what I have here on the table are
just some of the key things that we look
Probably more valuable than any other
bone in the body for the Osteologist
working in an archeological context, are
the pelvises.
And so here we got both a male pelvis on
our left, and a female pelvis here on our
And these are, the reason why they're so
important for us is first and foremost,
they can tell us about sex, they can also
tell us about age.
>> Sex or gender?
>> Sex.
When we talk about when we talk about sex
versus gender in osteological context.
We use sex because it refers to the
biological identity of being male or
And we make that distinction from gender
because gender, of course, is socially constructed.
>> Gotcha.
>> And that can vary from one society
to the next.
So I always like to tell students that as
an osteologist we're great about talking
about sex, we're terrible about talking
about gender.
>> [LAUGH], okay.
>> But we can take this information.
>> Yeah.
>> And then go to the archaeological
record and then start making some
comments about gender.
>> Fill it out, gotcha.
So, what's the diff?
Vive la difference.
>> All right.
So you have a male pelvis, and I have a
female pelvis.
And the bottom line of the difference in
the architecture between the two is that
the female obviously has a pelvis that's
slightly altered or adapted.
Among other things, for carrying a fetus
for nine months and then passing that
fetus through this inlet or this opening
after those nine months.
In other words
>> Mm-hmm.
>> pregnancy and childbirth.
And as a result, the overall architecture
of the pelvis is different, to create
both a bigger space to support that child
during the pregnancy.
But then also to allow that delivery.
>> But how often do you find whole
I mean, is that a real rare, I mean it's
a pretty robust chunk.
But you know what if you found just like
a bit like that?
You just, it's human.
>> It's that's a great, that's a great
question, and obviously a big issue for
It's always going to be an issue of
preservation, which I assume we'll talk
>> Yeah.
Yeah, we're talking about it a lot.
>> Talk about it in a bit.
>> Yeah.
>> And so indeed, that's the problem
with the pelvis, is that oftentimes it
doesn't preserve so well.
And especially our favorite bone, is the
pubis right here, which as you can see is
actually fairly small fragile looking.
>> Yeah.
>> That's often times lost.
But depending on skeletal preservation,
you can recover fairly often or in my
context I work in the Mayan area which is
a tropical forest.
Not so often.
>> Not so good.
So, male, female.
>> Uh-huh.
>> I'm just going to guess male female.
>> Exactly.
>> Exactly, so, one of the things that
you'll see here is that in general the
male is larger than the female.
Which I'm guessing is sort of what clued
you into that.
>> I went on size, yeah.
>> This is the male.
>> I mean it sometimes stereotypes,
kind of work.
>> Yeah, yeah.
Well the, it's actually reflective of
our, sort of our broader primate origins
that were, what we call Hominoids.
It's a group of animals that includes
humans, and also the greater and lesser
apes, your gorillas, your chimpanzees,
your orangutans.
And, like all the rest of the Homonoids,
we're still sexually dimorphic.
Males tend to be larger and we have
features that are different than the
And we saw that with the pelvic anatomy
And it's the same with the skull.
And so this is why as much as the pelvis
is great for sex determination, the skull
can also be useful.
And part of it is just overall size
differences, but if we take a closer
look, we can actually see that there are
some other features that are different
between the two.
>> Yeah.
So, if we take a look at the male skull,
we can see that it has this very
>> Mm-hm.
>> Brow ridges.
>> Mm-hm.
>> And, also, if we turn it around, it
has these large ridges on the back of the
That relate to muscle attachments from
the from the muscles of the back of the
And those tend to be larger and more,
more robust in males.
And another good one is actually this
bone right here.
Which is the temporal bone, and what
we're specially cluing in on is the
mastoid process, which tends to be larger
in males than it is in females.
>> But where on you is that?
>> On me, it's right here.
Right behind my ear.
>> Oh okay.
>> And it's actually, you can, you can
easily feel your mastoid process because
it's that area of thin skin right behind
>> Oh.
>> Right behind your ear, and whereas
if we look on the female, we'll see, see
that that's much smaller, that mastoid
And also females seem to have this
slighter brow ridges, although she's got
a bit of a brow ridge, and you do see
some variability there.
But also if you look at the back of her
skull, you'll see that there's much less
muscle development there.
But indeed we have to be careful because
of course you see those sometimes, manly
women and feminine men.
>> Yep, different, Okay, yeah.
>> How old were these people when they
>> Well, what I've got here is the
pelvises and the skulls, i'll set their
mandibles aside for the moment, are,
from adult individuals.
So, what I've brought here is a femur,
that's the bone of your thigh, and this
is from an adolescent individual.
Somebody who is in their young teenage
And one of the things that you'll see is
that the ends of these bones are loose.
Where as on a human femur, I mean not a
human sorry.
In a adult femur the epiphyses, these
ends of the bones, are actually fused on.
>> Okay.
>> And that's what allows linear growth
in your bones of your arms and your legs.
>> I see.
>> And this is why if we start taking
growth hormone or anything like this we
can't get any taller.
Once those ends are fused that's, that's.
>> Oh, I didn't know that, alright.
Bodily effects, but you can't because
you're, you're set.
>> Because the bones, the bones are
>> And what age does that sort of.
>> It began's to happen in puberty,
Especially the tail end, of puberty.
Especially around 16, 17, 18, years is
when all of these ends start fusing.
And the last one that actually fuses.
The end of your collar bones.
And that's around 24 or 25 years old.
And, so that's really the distinction
that I like to tell students.
Is that basically from birth to about 25
years of age, looking at the skeleton in
terms of questions of age it's all about
How are your bones growing?
Which new bones have appeared?
When are different bones fusing?
And then once you hit that 25 year mark,
which is, happened for both of us.
It's now all downhill in it's
So then we start looking at sequences of
deterioration of the, of the skeleton.
>> [LAUGH], thank you, yep.
>> As evidence of, of aging.
>> I see.
>> And.
>> But again, status or the, the life
you lived, the occupation you have can
retard or speed up the, again you'd have
to be careful, wouldn't you.
Someone might look 80, but they're 40,
but they have slave or something like
that in ancient Rome, so, okay.
>> Yeah, absolutely, we, I mean, we see
this you know, it's even when you think
about living peoples.
When you look at children, there's some
variability in, in growth and
development, but you're probably not
going to confuse a five year old with a
fifteen year old.
But what we see is exactly that.
How the bone ages is very much dependent
on the lifestyle a person lived.
And that can make things very, very
And that, in general, it's, it's much
less precise to try to determine age of
bone in adult.
And it's sort of.
>> Mm-hm.
>> Again, just like in living people.
When you think, sometimes you meet those
people, and they're like are they 40?
>> Yeah, yeah, yeah.
>> Are they 50, are they 60?
How old actually are they?
>> Yeah, yeah.
>> And in some sense, it's very much
the same.
>> The skeletons are even worse so.
>> Yeah, very much contingent on sort
of the lifestyle that somebody had, had

Related Interests