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Part of Women In STEM Activities

Identifying Skeletons

Back in Body Bits Week, we introduced you to the bones in your body.

Did you know that there are scientists who study bones from the human skeleton?

Julieta does this and her job has a technical name which is forensic anthropologist (fuh-ren-zuhk an-thruh-po-luh-juhst). Forensic anthropologists study a person's bones because they can tell us who that person was. Bones can give us a lot of information about the person that we are trying to identify. The pieces of information that the forensic anthropologist try to gather include sex, age and height.

In 2012, a skeleton was found buried beneath a car park in the city of Leicester in England. Did you know that forensic anthropologists helped to identify the skeleton as King Richard III? He was King of England almost 700 years ago! Researchers in Dundee studied his skull to work out what he looked like. You can learn more about this story and see BBC News story: Richard III: Facial Reconstruction Shows King's Features.

Bone Fact!

Did you know that more than half of the bones in your body are found in your hands and feet? There are 206 bones in the whole body with 106 found in your hands and feet! 27 in each hand and 26 in each foot!


Today, you will try to do the first steps for human identification. You will be the forensic anthropologist for one day!

A forensic anthropologist needs to know the skeleton very well. In your first activity, you will need to name some of the main bones in the human skeleton.

You will now learn how scientists use their knowledge about bones. It helps them to identify a skeleton, to know who that person was. One of the first steps is to know the sex of the individual. In your second activity, you will try to figure out the sex of two individuals by looking at their bones. The best bone to estimate sex is the pelvis (hip bone). They are the most different between males and females.

Do you know why?

Females can give birth. The form and shape of the pelvis is quite different to allow babies to be born.

Watch this video as Julieta will explain the differences in the shape of the pelvis between males and females. This will help you answer the questions on activity sheet 2.

Julieta Gómez García-Donas
Dr Julieta Gómez García-Donas, Lecturer in Forensic Anthropology at the Center for Anatomy and Human Identification (CAHID), School of Science and Engineering, University of Dundee
Activities Worksheets
Activity #1 Worksheet (PDF) (Answers)
Activities Worksheets
Activity #2 Worksheet (PDF) (Answers)

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