Apolline Project

illuminating the dark side of Vesuvius

Study Human Bones


The Church of Santa Maria Assunta in Pernosano

The first extant historical account of the church is derived from a document dating to 1195, which mentions its construction in the 10th century. By 1591 the church had largely fallen into disrepair, and in the early 17th century after several bouts of plague, the modern church was built above it with the earlier church converted into a series of crypts used well into the 19th century. Destruction and looting befell the town of Pago del Vallo di Lauro for much of the 19th century, first caused by the influx of French troops and later by that of the Bourbon army.

The human remains disinterred from the church (during excavations from 1998 to 2012) are housed in a large storage room annexed to the modern church above. The collection of skeletal material consists of a minimum of about 60 individuals and preservation appears to vary from good to excellent. A more detailed description of the context is available here.

Two-week course in human osteology

For those interested in learning how to interpret a historic skeletal assemblage, the Apolline Project is offering a two-week intensive boot camp in physical anthropology. Students will be instructed and immersed in the practical application of techniques used to correctly analyse human remains and will play an integral role in helping to better understand the previously unstudied collection of Pernosano. In general, days will begin with a formal lecture (1-2.5 hours) pertaining to one specific area in physical anthropology. Students will then apply what they have learned in practical, hands on exercises following the formal lesson. Lessons will provide a comprehensive overview to human osteology, and will give a regional context by introducing local case studies. Lessons will be combined with trips to nearby sites and guest speakers are planning to lecture on their specific fields of interest within physical anthropology.

Skills that students will acquire upon completion of this course include: bone identification, side identification, fragment identification, determination of sex, determination of age at death, identification of both specific and non-specific bone and dental pathologies, cleaning and proper curation of a collection, interpretation of basic isotopic data to determine dietary and migratory patterns, identification of juvenile skeletal remains, calculation of robusticity, estimation of race, and determination of stature using various regression formulae. Group discussions will be held on regional case studies as well as the array of ethics and legislation governing the procurement, study, and display of human remains. Student progress will be informally assessed by administering several practical quizzes over the duration of the course, one article critique presentation, as well as a final assessment.
During the weekend following the first week of the course students will be offered complementary transportation for one day trip to Pompeii and another to visit the historic city centre of Naples. These trips are of course optional, but students are highly encouraged to participate so as to make the most of their time in the region of Campania.

Tentative Lesson Schedule (subject to change and adjustment)

Day 1
Lesson: Introduction to human osteology
Practical: Basic bone identification and anatomical layout of skeleton
Practical: Cranial landmarks
Tour of the Medieval church of Santa Maria Assunta in Pernosano

Day 2
Lesson: Determination of age and sex
Practical: Determining age and sex from pelvis, cranium and dentition
Practical: Identifying cranial fragments

Day 3
Lesson: Osteological Growth and Development
Practical A: Determining age of non-adults
Practical B: Post-cranial landmarks

Day 4
Lesson A: Dental Growth and Development
Lesson B: Dental genetic traits
Practical A: Determining age of non-adults by dentition
Practical B: Identifying and scoring dental genetic traits

Day 5
Lesson: Bone pathology
Practical: Pathology identification
Lesson: Dental Pathology
Practical: Identification and scoring of dental pathologies

Day 6
Lesson: Estimating Race and Determining Stature
Practical: Taking anthropometric measurements to determine stature and robusticity

Day 7
Lesson A: Paleodietary analysis: Carbon and Nitrogen isotopes; microwear analysis, residue analysis.
Lesson B: Ancient Migration and Mobility: Strontium and Oxygen isotopes
Practical: Identifying post-cranial fragments
Tour of local cemetery to learn about regional burial practices

Day 8
Lesson: Regional Case Studies in Campania/Bay of Naples
Presentations: Stable isotope article critiques
Practical: Identifying and siding bones of the hands and feet

Day 9
Lesson: Ethics and Legislation
Group discussion on ethics
Practical: Creating biological profile of selected skeleton
Open day for community/school children to educate about skeletal remains

Day 10
Student Presentations of biological profiles of selected skeletons
Final cumulative assessment

Taking part

The workshop runs from June 29th to July 10th, 2015 and again from July 27th to August 7th, 2015. The contribution to participate is 650 EUR for 2 weeks and students are invited to spend an extra week at the accommodation following the course free of charge to better explore the region.
The final deadline for applications is May 15th and those who apply will find out if they have been successful within three weeks of their application. Please consider that places are very limited, therefore we encourage you to submit your application earlier rather than later.

Application process

The application process is easy and straightforward. Please follow this link and complete the electronic application.

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