Maura Griffith — Adventures in Archaeology, Part 4

Transylvania Diaries: Week 4: Parietal, Temporal, and Frontal, Oh My!

So, a fun fact about children is that they grow. This means their bones display an incredible, frustrating, fascinating amount of morphological diversity. That diversity poses an additional challenge for identifying bones and any associated pathology.

Our first week in the lab has already settled into a solid routine. We have one to two lectures each day, with a coffee break around 10 AM, lunch at noon-ish, and bone washing for one to two hours before end of day at 4PM. A distinct benefit over the field is the opportunity to walk into town for coffee or lunch. Outside of lecture and bone washing, we have time to study the structures we covered during lecture. On Monday, we were surprised with an assessment bone quiz. I solidly failed it, although not so terrible for someone who has never taken an osteology course before. I am choosing to view it as room for improvement.

In our first week, we covered the bones of the pelvis (ilium, ischium, and pubis), the cranial vault (occipital: pars squama, pars lateralis, pars basilaris; temporal: pars sqauma, pars tympani, pars petrosal; frontal, parietal, and sphynoid), the splanchocranium or facial bones, (maxilla, mandible, zygomatic, ethmoid, inferior nasal concha, lacrimoles, palatines, and vomer), teeth, the vertebral column, and bone development. In addition to learning the bones, we are also learning different features of each bone, such as different articular surfaces, foramen, and fossa. Suffice to say, my brain is a little fried. Teeth and vertebrae are evil and I hate them. At least for now.

I’ve found that being able to handle the bones in various developmental stages to be hugely helpful in learning the bones. Certain bones, such as the ilium and parietal, are easier to side be feel rather than by sight. Jessica and Sam, who worked on the other dig last session, have been incredibly helpful and patient in helping me learn on the bones. I’d be utterly and entirely lost without them. Their tutelage definitely paid off – on our bone quizzes at the end of the week, I vastly improved compared our pre-test. There may be hope for me yet.

We also received our first two homework assignments. The first is an annotated bibliography that will develop into our culminating research project at the end of the session. Though I haven’t quiet settled on a topic, I think I will be looking at taphonomic changes wrought by natural phenomena. The second was all about teeth. We aged individuals based on casts and radiographs, and identified which arcade the tooth came from, the type of tooth, and if it was permanent or deciduous. Once all of that was figured out, we scored the development of the teeth based on various standards.


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