Comparative Skeletal Anatomy

header image - various bones

Work in this laboratory attempts to find answers to one of the first questions asked upon discovery of skeletal material in a forensic or archaeological scenario: “Is this human or non-human bone?”.

Morphological differences certainly play a role in identification. It is important to spend time studying and understanding a range of human skeletons and those of different non-human animals, to enable identification of bones to genus or species level rather than merely that of non-human. But morphological observations may not be useful for many bone fragments. The shafts of long bones lack diagnostic features, yet their robusticity means their fragments frequently survive. Simple, inexpensive methods of identifying such fragments are particularly desirable.

This is a surprisingly under-researched area, particularly from an Australian viewpoint, where the presence of large kangaroos provides a non-human skeleton similar in size to human skeletal remains that is otherwise overlooked by the rest of the world.