Another sunny Thursday means another day sorting bones! This week I picked up from where I left last time (unfortunately last week I was ill so I didn’t go in). This meant recording and sorting various bones of the skull. I had a few elements left to sort that were divided into small boxes inside on large box.
Previously I had gone through boxes containing maxillas, ethmoid and vomers. Today I started with a box of sphenoid bones. Only since volunteering have I had the chance to look at the sphenoid bone more closely. As it’s tucked into the centre of the skull the element isn’t easy to see but if you have a complete skull you can see it underneath the zygomatic processes (cheek bones) at the side of the skull. It’s a lovely bone and could easily be described as butterfly shaped due to it’s greater wings.
After that box I looked at another small box containing, what I thought were, temporal bones. You have two temporal bones, a left and a right, situated on either side of the skull. This is where your ears are. They are disc shaped bones with the protruding zygomatic processes. As I said I thought this box only contained these bones but to my surprise there were also some very small fragile, neo-nate bones.
Neo-nate bones are very delicate but in my opinion very beautiful. I’ve mentioned in the past that I’ve always enjoyed studying juvenile and infant bones but I have rarely had the chance to look at bones belonging to an individual who was so young. I didn’t do an age estimate but you could tell that these belonged to an very small individual. For example both maxillas were present and I could tell from their shape and size that these were young bones. In addition to the maxillas the pars basilaris and pars lateralis were present, which make up part of the occipital bone surrounding the foramen magnum. These, plus a miniature sphenoid bone and one greater wing, made up the neo-nate bones in this box.
I would have liked to take some photos for you to see but I’m not allowed unfortauntely. I did try to find an image of these infant bones and after some searching I came across this:
The remainder of the day was spent counting and sorting mandibles. To be honest there weren’t that many exciting examples there but there were few pathologies. These were mainly in the form of dental caries and bone remodelling due to tooth loss. I’m still impressed when I come across an individual who has no teeth left but who obviously survived pretty well without them as the bone has completely remodelled leaving no tooth sockets.
It was good to be back today. I do really enjoy this work. It’s slightly odd but I know there’s a few of you out there who completely get it! I’m looking forward to getting back next week, not only for the bones, but because another volunteer will be joining me. I’ll have to train him/tell him what we’re doing and how to do it. It’ll be nice to have someone to work with again, although I didn’t mind getting lost in my little world of bones on my own!