Apolline Project

illuminating the dark side of Vesuvius

Study Human Bones


Two-week course in human osteology

For those interested in learning how to interpret a historic skeletal assemblage, the Apolline Project offers two-week intensive bootcamps in human osteology. 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 collections of Aeclanum and Pollena Trocchia.
In general, days will begin with a formal lecture (1-2.5 hours) pertaining to one specific area in human osteology. Students will then apply what they have learned in practical, hands on exercises using the actual bones of the collection. Lessons will provide a comprehensive overview to human osteology, and will give a regional context by introducing local case studies. Lessons may also be combined with trips to nearby sites. Days will also typically include 45 minutes to 1.5 hours of cleaning bones to allow for further study.

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 basic 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, determining the minimum number of individuals in a commingled context, calculation of robusticity, and determination of stature from long bone measurements using various regression formulae. Group discussions will be held on the ethics and legislation governing the procurement, study, and display of human remains in different countries around the world. Student progress will be informally assessed by several practical quizzes administered over the duration of the course, as well as a final cumulative assessment.

Tentative Lesson Schedule (subject to change and adjustment)

Day 1
Lesson: Introduction to human osteology
Practical: full skeleton layout
Practical: Landmarks of the cranium

Day 2
Lesson: Determining Sex
Practical: Determining Sex
Practical: Landmarks of the pelvic girdle

Day 3
Lesson: Determining Age
Practical: Determining Age

Day 4
Lesson: Teeth. Identification, growth and development, dental pathology
Practical: Tooth identification
Practical: Scoring dental pathology

Day 5
Lesson A: Regional Applications
Practical: Landmarks of the upper limb
Practical: Review of week 1 topics

Day 6
Lesson: Paleodietary analysis: Carbon and Nitrogen isotopes; Ancient Migration and Mobility: Strontium and Oxygen isotopes
Practical: Landmarks of the lower limb
Practical: Landmarks of the Shoulder Girdle
Practical: Hands and feet

Day 7
Lesson: Palaeopathology
Practical: Pathology examples
Practical: Taking measurements (anthropometrics) and estimating stature
Practical: Hands and feet

Day 8
Lesson sorting commingled remains
Practical: Determining Minimum Number of Individuals from commingled remains

Day 9
Practical: Analyzing a full skeleton

Day 10
Student Presentations of biological profiles of assigned skeletons

Taking part

The next workshops will take place from July 29th to August 9th (at Aeclanum) and from the 19th to the 30th of August (at Pollena), each at the cost of 650 EUR. To apply, please go to this page.
The final deadline for applications is June 20th and those who apply will find out if they have been successful within three weeks of their application as acceptances to the program are rolling. 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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