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 (1.5-2.5 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 pathologies, cleaning and proper curation of a collection, interpretation of basic isotopic data to determine dietary patterns, differentiation between human and faunal skeletal material, familiarity with dating techniques applicable to human remains, identification of juvenile skeletal remains, calculation of robusticity, and determination of stature using various regression formulae.

Lesson Schedule

Day 1*
Lesson: Introduction to human osteology
Practical: Bone identification and landmarks of the cranium

Day 2*
Lesson A: Regional applications for the study of human remains
Lesson B: Determination of age and sex
Practical: Determining age and sex

Day 3*
Lesson A: Estimation of Race and Stature
Lesson B: Dating Techniques
Practical: Taking long bone measurements to estimate stature

Day 4*
Lesson: Identifying Human vs. Non-Human
Practical: TBD

Day 5*
Lesson A: Paleodietary analysis: Carbon and Nitrogen isotopes; microwear analysis, residue analysis.
Lesson B: Ancient Migration and Mobility: Strontium and Oxygen isotopes
Practical: Identifying cranial fragments

Day 6*
Lesson: Regional Applications and critiques
Practical: Identifying post-cranial fragments

Day 7
Lesson: Pathologies, trauma and non-metric variation
Practical: Pathology and trauma analysis

Day 8
Lesson: Determining Age by Social Context
Practical: TBD

Day 9
Lesson: Ethics and Legislation
Practical: TBD

Day 10
Student Presentations of biological profiles of selected skeletons

* Denotes quiz that day, following practical

Taking part

The workshop runs from July 21st to August 1st (please note that this block is now full) and August 24th to September 6th. The contribution to participate is 500EUR. The final deadline for applications is May 15th and those who apply will find out if they have been successful within two days 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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