Our first job is to identify the bones that are present. The developing bones of young infants have more separate parts than the completed bones of an adult. It is necessary to learn some highly specialist anatomy skill to identify them. It is also necessary to learn what side of the body they come from because a lot of the bones and all the teeth are paired - left and right. There are tricks to identifying the bones, as with the right palatine bone being held between thumb and forefinger. As its name implies, it forms part of the bony palate in the skull. The other bone is a clavicle, or collar bone.
We also measure the bones. There are standard measurements we can take with calipers (we use plastic ones so as not to scratch the bones). Here, a little bone from the base of the skull called the basilar occipital bone is being measured. it is a particularly useful measurement for studying growth in young children.
We keep a log of the bones and teeth present for each burial, together with their measurements, on a standard recording sheet. This information is then typed into the site database. We use paper and pen to record things in the laboratory because it provides one permanent record which remains even if there are computer problems, and to keep laboratory dust out of the computers.
Bioanthropology project on the island of Astypalaia, Dodecanese, Greece > Bioanthropology laboratory >