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Skeletal Identification*

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Abstract

THE problem of skeletal identification is older than anatomy, anthropology, or medicine. Man’s early use of bone marrow for food, his utilization of bones for weapons, and his attempts at surgery offer indirect evidence that his knowledge of the skeletal parts was considerable. In our own American Indian cultures, bone played an important role. Jaw bones of deer were used as scrapers; their vestigial ulnae as well as the long bones of birds were fashioned unto points used for piercing. The preservation of skulls of slain enemies by many primitive people gave the leaders opportunities which they probably did not utilize for contemplation and observation of individual skeletal differences; but certainly they recognized differences between human skulls and others.

Today the medical profession is called upon frequently to determine the nature of skeletal finds. Frequently animal bones are mistaken for human bones. Dutra,1 for example, in his excellent article on skeletal identification, points out the close resemblance between a human femur and that of a bear. Recently a pair of bear’s paws (fig. 1), found on a Cleveland city dump, were sent to Dr. S. R. Gerber, Cuyahoga County Coroner, for identification in the belief that they were human remains. If the finds prove to be of human origin, further questions as to age, sex, race, stature, and individual peculiarities immediately arise. In the event of murder or violent death suspected in connection with skeletons unearthed by chance from shallow graves, from skeletal fragments found in the ashes of buildings. . .


 

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