Re: dem bones...dem bones

Flyinggoat (
29 Mar 1995 21:53:32 -0500

As an amatuer interested in osteology, here is what >I< would look for:

>1. whether the fossil is hominid?
---Is the hip bowl-shaped or shaped like an H? Hominids have a curved
illiac crest (the fan part of the hip) to help hold in the gut in a
vertical postion. Is the tail fused to the hip in any great part? If
not, probably not hominid.
--Does it have recogniseable hands and feet. Are the hands different from
the feet? >caution< bear feet have been frequently mistaken for hominid
feet...look for claws to help identify which.
--The skull (if present). Does it look like a primate?
--the ribs, are they very curved? (as in a small human-like ribcage) or
are they straighter? (like a deep-chested horse)

>2. the age of the specimen?
--look for teeth. These last longest of any part of a fossil as they are
hardest. If they show lots of wear (flatter across molars, incisors with
ragged edges) you have an older individual. If they are in the skull, are
they juvenile or adult teeth? Are there adult teeth unerupted still in
the jaw? Does the skull show signs of disease?
--There is a way to tell by looking at the ossification of the joints, but
I am not expirienced in this one, so I'll skip it. Someone here probably
knows more.

>3. the gender?
--In >HUMANS< the difference in hip shapes is a strong tell-tale. Females
have to have room to pass a 6-8+ lb baby through the hip. Female hips are
wider and from the front have a squarish appearance, males tend to be more
--There are others, such as robustness, etc, but again, someone else will
know more.

>4. the probable height?
--place your collection of bones together in a roughly articulated
postion. Can you reconstruct from this how big the leg, arm, or whatever
is? Again, there are formulae for this in Osteology texts for more
specific results.

>5. if it is omnivore or herbivore?
--quite a lot is dependant on the teeth. Especially useful is having
several teeth from the same individual to determine functions of the
various teeth. (Is it for tearing, or chopping? Grinding or as a

I'm curious to know what you've hypotheticly found.

Betty Cunningham(
illustrator, animator, and likes to collect dead things