How would you know if an old bone belonged to a dead person?

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wannam | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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There are several methods of determining who a bone belongs to.  For starters, scientists would look for specific markers to make sure the bone was human.  Each category of animal has specific markers on its bones which help us determine what species we are looking at.  Another technique which has only been recently available is DNA.  Scientists can drill into the bone down to the bone marrow.  DNA is stored in the marrow and can be tested for extended periods after the death of the person.  Of course, the collected DNA has to be compared with the DNA of the deceased.  If there is no DNA sample of the deceased person, scientist will try to match the DNA to specific markers in family members in order to determine if there is a match.

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