Hassan’s Story – A&P Case Study

Question A: Baru is using surface markings to identify the gender of a skull. What two major types of surface marking do bones have? Answer: Bone surface markings consist of a) Depressions and openings and b) Processes. Depressions and openings are areas that form joints or areas that allow passage of soft tissue, such as nerves, blood vessels, ligaments and tendons. Processes are projections or outgrowths on bone that form joints or attachment points for connective tissue, such as ligaments and tendons.

Question B: Why are Liu and Hassan surprised to find a metopic suture on an adult skull? In which skull bone to metopic sutures occur? Answer: Soon after birth the right and left sides of the frontal bone are united by the metopic suture. Normally the metopic suture disappears between the ages of six and eight, so finding one on an adult skull would be surprising. Question C: What delicate skeletal structures are found inside the nasal cavity that might be missing from and excavated skull?

Answer: Skeletal structures inside the nasal cavity that could be missing from an excavated skull would be septal cartilage, the vomer, the inferior nasal conchae and the perpendicular plate. Question D: How would Hassan and his team be able to tell the ages of the skeletal remains of the woman and the baby? Answer: Age can be estimated by examining the vertebral column. Average length for an adult female is around 24 inches; in an adult male it is approximately 28 inches. The total number of vertebrae can also help determine age. During early development there are 33 total vertebrae.

This number decreases as people age because the 5 sacral vertebrae as well as the 4 coccygeal vertebrae begin to fuse together. Fusion of the sacral vertebrae begins between the ages of 16 and 18 and is usually completed by age 30. The coccygeal vertebrae fuse when a person is between the age of 20 and 30. Question E: What features of the vertebral column would the larger skeleton in the sarcophagus show to indicate is was female? Answer: In females, the coccyx points inferiorly to allow the passage of a baby during birth. In males, the coccyx points anteriorly.

Question F: What bone in the neck region other than cervical vertebrae may be damaged during strangulation or neck trauma? Answer: The hyoid bone. Question G: If the bones of a person found at the excavation site were missed up and out of sequence, how could the anthropologists determine which vertebrae were cervical, lumbar or thoracic? Answer: Vertebrae in the different regions of the vertebral column vary in size, shape and detail. Question H: Why would bones, with their hard structure, be subject to and show signs of the disease that destroyed this community?

Answer: Bones are/were living tissue, albeit, hard on the outside. Visually, they would still show signs of lesions and tissue damage, plus DNA can be extracted and examined to determine the specific disease a person may have died from. Question I: What structure passes through the transverse foramina of cervical vertebrae that would cause death if damaged as in the child’s skeleton? Answer: The dens, a peg-like process on the body of C2, could cause death if forcefully driven into the medulla oblongata of the brain.

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