I was really excited to start my first full day of volunteering yesterday – I don’t think I really slept that well! I was very much looking forward to working with human bones again, and to see the people I had met the week before. Overall I can say it was a very good day!
Both of us, there is another lady volunteering with me called Diana, started where we finished from last week. This was with three boxes full of assorted bones – oh and there was also one hat box containing a skull! All of the bones were jumbled up and we had no idea what was in those boxes so we started off by taking every bone out and grouping them in their elements, e.g. humerus’s together, feet together etc.
We then attempted to put together elements which looked like they came from the same individual. This is was predominately based on length, colour, and whether any elements seemed to articulate with another. We managed to group some elements together although it was quite difficult at times, for example if you didn’t have two of the same element (a left side and a right side) it was tricky to be sure whether different bones of the body went together. However, we tried our best and managed to identify about 4 partial skeletons and to be honest it was quite a lot of fun but difficult – like doing trying to identify many puzzles with only some of the pieces and all jumbled up! I haven’t had the chance to do this before so it was quite nice to put the theory and my knowledge into practice.
As well as just assorted bones there were quite a few skulls (including a dog skull!) – most of them with their skull caps removed. So like the other bones of the skeleton we had to piece together any loose skull caps or mandibles and I think by the end of if we had about 8 partial or complete skulls with a couple of skulls and jaws left over!
One thing that is really interesting about this project is getting the chance to see how people in the past used bones for study. As many of the skeletons we are sorting through were teaching tools a lot have either pen markings, for the muscle attachments, or are wired together. It’s quite odd to see this as they have damaged the bones. The majority of these will be unusable as teaching tools for the current and future students due to this damage caused. I don’t have any issues with reconstructing the full skeleton – if it is done well and with suitable material (not as we saw in one vertebrae column wire which had completely destroyed many of the bodies of the individual vertebrae). These bones were also in living humans and therefore demand respect when being handled. I know attitudes were different in the past but it’s still hard to comprehend sometimes.
Overall I had a really good day at the College and am very much looking forward to going back and sorting some more bones next week!