August 25, 2014

Who needs an osteologist? (Installment 16)

It's the first day of classes here at UWF, which means a fresh crop of undergraduates in my Human Osteology class.  And with perfect timing, here's the case of the 38-year-old ectopic pregnancy that has been making the rounds on the various social media I frequent.  It's a pretty interesting case, and the MRI seems to show a fetal skeleton (inasmuch as I have no professional training in reading an MRI).  The Daily Mail carried a photo, though, of the doctors' attempt at rearticulating the skeleton.  And these doctors most definitely need an osteologist:

It's an insanely blurry shot, but can you pick out the things that are either wholly wrong or really rather wonky?  Spoiler alert:

  • The most glaringly obvious ones (to me, anyway, but I spent a bunch of time this summer looking at neonate bones) are the sphenoid (or, rather, the presphenoid, which includes the distinctive lesser wings and sella turcica) and occipital (pars lateralis and pars basilaris) in the pelvis.  
  • I'm pretty sure those femora are upside down and mis-sided. 
  • They seem to have swapped the right tibia and left humerus, inexplicably.  
  • The clavicles appear to be mis-sided. 
  • And I'm not sure what those things are at the wrist, but they're almost certainly not carpals (since carpals are much smaller than that at the fetal stage).
Did I miss anything?

Speaking of fetal stage... there's no scale to this, but it looks pretty damn close to a neonate to me.  It makes me wonder if this is actually a picture of the supposedly ectopic pregnancy.  Ectopic simply means outside of the uterus, though, so it's possible the fetus grew nearly to term without killing the mother (and there have been other cases like this, although not quite as long-standing).

At any rate, some doctors at NKP Salve Institute of Medical Sciences in India definitely need an osteologist.

Previous installments of Who needs an osteologist?

August 23, 2014

Fall Courses - Bioarchaeology and Osteology

Starting Monday, I get to teach my dream-lineup of semester courses: Human Osteology (with lab) and Bioarchaeology.  In the spring, I went through the process of getting Bioarch on the books as a new course, and this will be the first time I've taught it since 2006.  And, believe me, the practice of bioarchaeology has changed a lot since then.

Since starting at UWF, when I noticed a program on my university-issued computer I'd never used before (Microsoft Publisher), I've been spiffing up my syllabi for every course.  Here are the first two pages for my Fall 2014 courses in Human Osteology and Bioarchaeology.  (And the full PDFs are on for Osteo and for Bioarch.)


Fancified Syllabi FAQs:
  • How'd you do this? I used templates in Microsoft Publisher.
  • How long did it take?  Probably 10 hours per syllabus to typeset.
  • Can I steal this idea?  By all means, steal away!
  • Are the students more likely to read and keep the syllabus? Not the intro students, no. Upper division students do seem to appreciate it, but perhaps they would already have kept it? Someone do a study of this, with control groups and such!
Happy fall semester, everyone!

August 22, 2014

Who needs an osteologist? (Installment 15)

The Huffington Post recently posted this picture and asked, "Is that a thigh bone on Mars?"

Answer: No.  Just... what?  No.  Which part of that looks like a femur?

Previous installments of Who needs an osteologist?

August 4, 2014

Roman Bioarchaeology Carnival XLIII

As predicted, bunches of stuff came out in July, which tends to be the most popular month for announcing Roman-era (and other-era) bioarchaeology finds.

Pre-Roman Europe

  • 14 July. Vintage bling: Ancient Celts may have had shiny dental implants (LiveScience). A dental implant dating to the 3rd century BC was found in France. It seems the researchers who found the female skeleton can't actually tell if the implant was inserted before or after death.  They assume, though, that it was for aesthetic purposes, since the missing tooth was a central incisor.
  • 29 July. Findings indicate ritual destruction of Iron Age warriors (PastHorizons).  A whole bunch of presumed warriors were found in a bog in East Jutland, Denmark, notable especially because of the seemingly ritual nature of parts of the disposal -- in one case, four pelvic bones were found on a stick or a spit. They likely date to the 4th-1st centuries BC.

Roman Empire

  • 1 July. Bournemouth University dig finds significant Roman remains (BBC News). Five individuals -- two male and three female skeletons -- were found associated with a mid-4th century Roman villa in Dorset.  Researchers think these are three generations of the same family, but there is no report as to why. The graves appear to have been high-status.
A Romano-British skeleton from Dorset (via BBC)
  • 1 July. Skeletons found in Roman tomb (Hurriyet Daily News). A Roman-era tomb with six skeletons was found in Mugla, Turkey. Again, the skeletons are assumed to represent a family without any explanation as to why.
Roman-era skeletons from Turkey (via Hurriyet Daily News)
  • 4 July. Twenty-five skeletons found on farm (Northamptonshire Telegraph). What is assumed to be a cemetery of lower-class Romano-British people was found near Irchester in south central England.  No pictures, but video at link (fair warning: might autoplay).
  • 17 July. Ostia, scoperto mausoleo dell III secolo con inscrizioni terribili e maledizioni (Il Messaggero). There's various coverage of this in English as well, but the best pictures are at this link.  Archaeologists at Ostia Antica have been busy excavating a dozen graves found outside the wall of the city.  It appears the burials are varied in forms.  It's interesting that these graves are not at Isola Sacra, the main cemetery for Ostia Antica and Portus Romae, but they're in keeping with normal Roman burial practices of being located along a road outside the city walls.  Should be interesting to see what the bones tell.
One of the skeletons from the new
cemetery at Ostia Antica (via Il Messaggero)

Right arm bones of a Sarmatian noblewoman (via Ak Zhaik)

Post-Roman Finds

  • 31 July. Dark Age necropolis unearthed in France (Archaeology Magazine). A massive cemetery of over 300 burials dating to the post-Roman era (5th-7th centuries AD) was found recently in Normandy. The analysis of all these skeletons should prove very interesting.

Woman with earrings, from the early Medieval
necropolis found in Normandy (via Archaeology Magazine)

Other Interesting Stuff

  • 6 July. 2,500-year-old erotic graffiti found in unlikely setting on Aegean island (The Guardian). Scholars debate what constitutes the "earliest" graffiti (writing on walls at Pompeii, pictograms from the Native Americans, rock art at Chauvet Cave...), but this is pretty neat.  Two different graffiti from Astypalaia in Greece: one a depiction of two penises (of course) and one a sentence proclaiming homosexual sex.  Both date to about the 5th-6th centuries BC, making them very early erotic graffiti.
  • 10 July. Divine reverie: Revelation, dream interpretation, and teeth in antiquity (The Appendix).  One of my good friends, Sarah Bond, co-authored this neat piece on teeth in dreams.  There is so much potential for a graduate course paper or even thesis relating this to bioarchaeological finds of Romans missing teeth.  (With bonus picture of an Imperial Roman jaw with poor dental hygiene.)
  • 18 July and 22 July. I wrote two posts on Roman walking resulting from questions from Roman archaeologist Eric Poehler, who does research on streets, cobblestones, and walking in Pompeii. First, how long was the Roman stride?  And then, How big were Roman feet?  The latter was picked up on 1 August by Smithsonian Magazine as "How big were Romans' feet?" There's plenty of opportunity for an interested grad student to work with available data to figure this out in more depth.

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