Physical Anthropology: What Do Bones Tell Us?

*Adopted form Anthony (Bud) and Patricia Nolan Bertino, and


What personal information can be learned from bones?





How does this work?



Remember What are the functions of bone and how does that relate to their structure:



How to Distinguish Males from Females:

General Characteristics:




1.      Pelvis

a.      Sub pubic angle

b.      Pelvic cavity shape

c.      Sacrum

d.      Width of the ileum


2.      Skull

a.      Frontal bone

b.      Mandible inferior view

c.      Ramus of Mandible

d.      Upper Ridge of Eye Orbit

e.      Nuchal Crest

f.      Occipital Protuberance

g.      Skull


3.      Humerus and Femur: refer to charts

a.      Maximum length of bones

b.      Width of bones

c.      Transverse and vertical diameter of head of bone (ball of the ball and sockets joint)






How to Distinguish Age:

Look for the presence or absence of cartilaginous lines or epiphysis

Refer to the charts to estimate age for each bone.


1.      Skull: Refer to suture closing on skull

a.      Lamboidal (closed at age )

b.      Sagittal (closed at age )

c.      Coronal (closed at age )


2.      Humerus and Femur: growth areas

a.      When does the head fuse to the shaft

b.      Refer to the charts for other reference sites


3.      Teeth

4.      Ribs and Vertebrae

5.      Diseases: osteoarthritis, osteoporosis


How can you tell if a skeleton is less than 5 years old, decades old and centuries old?


How to Determine Height:

General rule of thumb:


How to Distinguish Race:

1.      Skull

a.      Orbital shape

b.      Nasal Spine

c.      Guttering of nose

d.      Prognathism

e.      Width of face


2.      Femur

a.      Does your hand slide under the femur or is it blocked?


b.      Length of femur


How can we determine possible life style: athletics, profession?



How can we determine general health: diet, nutrition and disease?