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Anthropology - Human Osteology and Skeletal Biology Lecture Notes.docx

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McMaster University
Karen Slonim

Human Osteology and Skeletal Biology Lecture Notes  Forensic anthropologists can somewhat do a biological profile  Good at understanding before death, during death and after death trauma  Can usually tell what caused death  Can identify post-death damage  Do not make final determination of death  Causes of death:  Do not take down criminals or arrest people Processes of Decomposition  Look at rate at which organic tissue breaks down and is destroyed  Breakdown and deconstruction of human remains begins about 2-3 days after death in an unrefrigerated scenario  Very dependent on (from most to least important): 1. Temperature – increase composition 2. Humidity – increase composition 3. Access by insects 4. Burial & depth of burial (or immersion in water): body decomposes 8 times slower if it is buried than if it is in the open; longer if in water 5. Activity of carnivores and rodents 6. Trauma 7. Clothing Process of Preservation  Certain soils can preserve bodies very well (sedimentary/volcanic ash)  Arctic coal freezes bodies  Still have skin  Gross 10 Key Questions Forensic Anthropologists Ask: 1. Is it bone?  Need to structures of bones  Need to be able to identify fragments of bones  Bone may be burnt (changes shape, colour and texture of bone)  Other materials can look like bone (ex. Some plastics) 2. Is it human?  Some bones may be similar to animal bones  Ex. Dog femur and human femur are close  Look at different sizes (could mean different ages or humans) 3. Is it modern or archeological?  Preservation can change appearance  Do not want to involve police if actually dealing with archaeological sample  Want to look for evidence of dental treatment, artifacts (coins with dates, wallet, etc.), clothing (labels, f
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