1.2.3 Bone Detectives

Topics: Skeleton, Human skeleton, Skeletal system Pages: 6 (1707 words) Published: January 22, 2014

Project 1.2.3: Bone Detectives

When we think of bones, we most often think of the way in which these hard structures support the body, how they work with muscles to produce movement and how they protect our internal organs. But the 206 bones of the human skeleton can also tell a story. The specific structure of your bones reveals information about your gender, your height, your age and even your ethnicity. These biological clues are often the first pieces of evidence scientists look to in identifying the remains of a missing person.

Specialists called forensic anthropologists are trained to analyze the secrets locked in a bone’s shape and structure and can use this information to help solve crimes, trace human origins, or identify those who have gone missing. In this project, you will assume the role of a forensic anthropologist and complete a detailed examination of skeletal remains. Forensic anthropologists use a combination of quantitative and qualitative measures to predict traits from bone. Through a series of metric measurements and direct observation, you will gather clues about the identity of the remains that have just been unearthed in a local park.

Last week, a young couple was out for an early morning run. Stopping to catch a drink, they stumbled upon what appeared to be a human skull. The police arrived at the scene and went on to unearth two skeletons lying side by side. With a huge backlog of missing person cases, the police are looking to you for answers. Who are these people lying forgotten in the park? Can these bones tell their story and finally provide closure to grieving families?

In this project, you and your team of forensic anthropologists have been called in to examine the skeletal remains. Through careful observation and measurement of the bones found at the scene, you will provide the local police department information that is vital to identifying these individuals. You will analyze features of bone to determine as much as you can about each person’s gender, ethnic origin, age and height. Once you have completed your tasks, you will prepare your findings in a detailed report to the police department.

Computer with Internet access
Laboratory journal
Career journal
Ward’s Sherlock Bones: Identification of Skeletal Remains Kit (2) Protractor
Metric ruler
Calipers (large and small)
Skeletal remains- skull, pelvis, humerus and femur or tibia
Laminated instruction cards and photographs (one set per station plus extra copies of the nasal index photographs) Calculator
Project 1.2.3: Student Data Sheet
Anatomy in Clay® Maniken®
Skeletal system graphic organizer
1. Visit the website Visible Proofs: Forensic Views of the Body presented by the National Library of Medicine at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/visibleproofs/education/anthropological/index.html. 2. In the section “Learning from Bones,” complete the visual comparison activities to determine the sex and the ethnic origin of the skulls. Take notes on the bone landmarks you used in your analysis in your laboratory journal. 3. Notice that forensic anthropologists use a three-race model to categorize skeletal traits. While there are obvious drawbacks to this model, race determination is considered a vital part of the overall identification process. Notice that in the National Library of Medicine site, ethnic origins are described by the scientific terms Caucasoid, Mongoloid and Negroid. In this activity, these terms will be used interchangeably with White, Asian and Black. 4. To learn more about the field of forensic anthropology and the duties of a forensic anthropologist, read the two interviews found at the bottom of the page (Barbian and Sledzick). Use the ideas presented in these two discussions to come up with your own definition of forensic anthropology. Write this definition in your career journal. You will further explore this career area in the next lesson. 5. Now that you...
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