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Class Notes: Human Osteology

Wednesday: January 4, 2012

Week 10: Review & Exam


Although this week was meant to be used for review and an exam, we instead covered more class notes. In bioarchaeology, there are three main classifications of ancestry. It is critical that you understand what is meant by “ancestry”. Anthropology has come a long way since its inception yet unfortunately many people still believe we speak about differing “races”. Ancestry removes the cultural construct of the concept of race (since physically race does not exist), thereby limiting its definition to the physical form. In bioarchaeological terms, ancestry relates to the geographic location of someone’s ancestors – and until worldwide travel became so efficient, there were three basic groups: those from Africa, from Asia, and from Europe. It also is important to note that there is no “norm” because variation is the norm. As such, those between the two centers of ancestry will show overlapping traits. I will list some traits commonly used for identification, but it is crucial that a suite of traits is used for identification rather than any single marker and it must be understood that most traits lie on a scale rather than a simply being present/not present. Also understand there are a lot more traits to use but I kept the list brief for a simple overview and comparison.

African ancestry: Wider nasal aperture with rounded nasal bones and a guttered margin; alveolar prognathism and a midline diastema common; hyperbolic dental arcade; large molars with cusps 5, 6, and 7; blunt chin and straight mandible edge.

Asian ancestry: Tented nasal bones with a broken gutter nasal sill; prominent zygomatic (cheek) bones giving face a broad appearance; wide angled dental arcade with incisal shoveling common; broad and projecting chin and rocker mandible

European ancestry: Steepled nasal bones with a deep nasal root and a sharp nasal sill; overjet and overbite common; small molars and Carabelli’s cusp common; v-shaped dental arcade; bilobate chin and undulating mandible


 We were allowed lab time to study for our exam. Nothing too exciting to write about.


Exam numero 2! It was only a practical (no written part) and the class as a whole did not meet expectations. I was among them myself with a crummy grade. In fact, this was when I first realized that I wasn’t getting it, but I did not understand why and therefore did not know what to do. I met with my teacher and he was surprised (not having known my grade yet since the assistant was the one to go over the test with us and apparently I was one of the better students). He felt his advice was weak since it wasn’t like I was fubbing up on any particular type of problem (my mistakes were all over the board: lefts & rights; identification; sexing; aging; ancestry), but truly it made since: If you think you know what a fragment is, think about everything else that will give evidence to support your hypothesis. I worked hard with this for the rest of the semester.

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One remark!

  1. Very interesting but, a lot to remember.
    glad you were able to Get It! but I knew you would.

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