How does osteology help the anthropologist identify a skeletonized body ?

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Human osteology is the study of human bones.  It is a broad term that encompasses all aspects of bones, including normal bone formation, all details of bone anatomy, and the effects on bones of disease and trauma.  Osteology also deals with the indications in bones of the race, sex, age, stature and ethnicity of the person from whom the bone or bones came.

Among many determinations possible, the forensic anthropologist can use osteology to identify the person whose bone(s) or skeleton is recovered.

For example, bones of the pelvis, especially the pubic bones, have clues of the subject’s sex.  In females, these bones may show telltale signs of any pregnancies.  The skull has characteristic features of the various races.  The long bones of the extremities, as well as many other bones bear indications of the subject’s age.

The overall heaviness of certain bones, features noted in areas of muscle attachment and other findings may indicate occupational or athletic activities in which the subject engaged during life.

Diseases and trauma during life often leave indicators on bones.  Fractures, for example, can be compared to medical X-rays of a living candidate to see if there is a match.

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How does osteology help the anthropologist in identifying a body?

Osteology is a subdiscipline of anthropology.  It is the study of the bones in a skeleton, which will help the anthropologist better understand the history of the individual in question.  Study of the human skeleton can tell the anthropologist indications of how the person lived, whether the person was male or female, the social standing the person most likely occupied, or certain cultural tendencies.  Study of the person's skeleton can also reveal things like the art of ancient warfare, depending on markings on the bones made by weapons of a certain age.  Disease is another thing that can be detected by the anthropologist as he studies the skeleton.  All these things will help the anthropologist better understand this persons placement in his or her circle of life.

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