I’ve been really busy and extremely tired recently which meant I didn’t get round to writing up last weeks volunteering. As I’ve had the Easter weekend to catch up on sleep and and relax a bit I finally feel rested. As with the previous weeks Diana and I have been going to various boxes containing assorted bones.
Currently we are finding boxes which have multiple examples of one type of bone. For example last week had nearly a whole box of ulnas and radai. This week we had a large amount of scapulars. Our job is to inventory each bone so we know what exists in the collection. The difficulty with this comes when we have multiple bones of the same type without a given number. In these cases we assign the bones with a temporary number and describe any distinguishable features. For example, if there is any damage, pathologies or marks on the bones which are particularly distinct. We’ve become quite good at this now and each bone should be easily identified.
Each week I try to find a particular bone or feature which is of interest of me. Most of the bones that we handle are fairly ordinary and we have seen only a few pathologies. There is one from last week that I found intriguing which was a fracture on a radius. This appeared as a compression fracture at the distal end and a fracture line could be seen on the surface. I’m not sure how that could have happened, maybe from being crushed? Unfortunately we didn’t have any of the other arms bones so we could not see if they had been affected.
This week we came across a femur with a large degree of bone growth at the distal end. It should be a great example from the osteo-archaeologists. However, here was something even better today. I think in my last post I mentioned that we went through a box of bones which had been described and assessed for pathology by Prof. Don Ortner. Well this week the actual notes had been found and we were shown them. I must admit I took a photo of these handwritten notes but I’m not sure how much I can show so I have only included a teaser picture for you!
I also had a interesting chat with the curator of the wet specimens about some of the items that are in the Wellcome Pathology and Anatomy Museum. In this collection there are two skeletons donated by individuals who suffered from the disease osteopetrosis, or marble bone disease. This condition makes the bones extremely dense and causes the soft tissue to calcify when it suffers trauma. This effectively means that the soft tissue around the bones starts to turn into bone and the whole skeleton fuses together causing the individual to become completely immobile. The stories about these people were amazing and uplifting because they continued to enjoy life as much as possible. One of the donators was a women who lived until she was in her 70s and was able to be active by being transported around on a stretcher.
These stories and the answers to my questions about some of the other specimens were all answered and I could have easily gone on asking more! Oh well that will have to wait two weeks as next week I’m off on holiday (yay!). However the week after I’ll be back working with bones and learning some new incredible things!