Introduction to Physical Anthropology

by Arnie Schoenberg
version: 8/4/19

Figure 72 human female skeleton, red lines point to individual bones, blue lines point to groups of bones by Mariana Ruiz Villarreal, 2007 (Public Domain)

Section 3 Contents

3    osteology


3      osteology

Osteology is the study of bones. Osteology is important to studying human variation, and primatology. Paleoanthropology relies on osteology because most fossils come from bones. Forensic anthropology uses osteology to solve crimes.

Like most other physical traits, the bones we see are a consequence of genes and environment. There is nothing particularly profound about bones compared to other biological systems, but their durability makes them special for anthropology because they are the main source of data for paleoanthropologists, important to archaeology, and before DNA testing, they were important to the study of human variation.

We tend to think of bones as dead, dry, and brittle, and when you leave them out in the sun for a few years they do get old. Their hardness comes from a calcium-based crystal structure. The molecules interconnect like columns of Lego blocks.

Figure 68 Hydroxyapatite molecule, by J. Kirkham © 2007

In a biology class you tend to think of a bone as a living organ, like your heart or your lungs, but in anthropology we are used to looking at dead bones, outside of the body, when they are just shells of the functions they had when they supported living organisms.

Figure 69 * Bone Growth by rozwój kos«ci (public domain)

Figure 70 Periosteum and Endosteum by OpenStax, College Anatomy & Physiology, 6.3  * Bone Structure, 2018 (CC-BY-4.0)

Genetics determines most of what your bones look like. For example, your 23rd chromosomes determine several shapes that are commonly used to say whether someone looks male or female, and forensic anthropologists use these differences to identify the sex of a skeleton.

Figure 71 to adapt to reproductive fitness, the female pelvis is lighter, wider, shallower, and has a broader angle between the pubic bones than the male pelvis. by OpenStax, College Biology, 38.1 * Types of Skeletal Systems, 2018 (CC-BY-4.0)

But like the rest of your body, the environment also effects your physical structures. The muscle attachments on your bones suggest your activities during your life, and stress, i.e. malnutrition, can be read in cross-sections of your teeth like tree rings.

It's important that we have a basic shared vocabulary so that we can compare humans to other vertebrates, to evaluate fossils, and to understand several aspects of human variation.

LEARN THE BONES OF THE HUMAN SKELETON BELOW:

Figure 72 human female skeleton, red lines point to individual bones, blue lines point to groups of bones by Mariana Ruiz Villarreal, 2007 (Public Domain)

If you want to memorize these bones try clicking the blank one, print a few copies out, and practice writing the names of the bones. Check your spelling and try to learn the scientific names.

Common Name
Scientific Name
skul
cranium
jawbone
mandible
collarbone
clavicle
shoulder blade
scapula
breast bone
sternum
funny bone
humerus
spine
vertebrae
hips
pelvis
wrist
carpals
hip
pelvis
thigh bone
femur
kneecap
patella
shin bone
tibia
ankle
tarsals

(adapted from George Claypoole http://hes.ucfsd.org/gclaypo/skelweb/skel03.html)

here's an online practice quiz with more detail then you need for this class, but good to know if you're going on in anything health related.

skim animal skeletons

SKIM PRIMATE SKELETONS AND MORE PRIMATE SKELETONS

Vocabulary

Imagination Questions

Figure 73 hah-ah-ah-hahhahaha by Allison Zai from Skeletons © 2018 (permission pending)


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