I’ve been reading Doug’s latest blog series on archaeological publishing with increasing interest. I’ve recently ordered a copy of Mary E. Lewis’s 2007 publication The Bioarchaeology of Childhood: Perspectives from Biological and Forensic Anthropology, and I am very much looking forward to reading it as I am keen to improve my own knowledge of human non-adults, i.e. of juvenile remains. It has also sadly been a while since I have ordered a new osteology reference book. This isn’t from a lack of bioarchaeology books that I would like to read, far from it, but it is partially due the cost of buying such copies. There have been a few recently released books (such as the 2014 Routledge Handbook of the Bioarchaeology of Human Conflict by Knüsel et al. and the 2013 Bioarchaeology: An Integrated Approach to Working with Human Remains by Martin et al.) that I’d love to own for my own collection, but I’m waiting until they come out in paperback as they are rather expensive otherwise.
On this blog I have often mentioned discussed and highlighted the wonders of the fantastic Human Bone Manual (2005) by White & Folkens, of Larsen’s (1997) Bioarchaeology: Interpreting Behaviour from the Human Skeleton reference book, and of Gosling et al.’s (2008) Human Anatomy: Colour Atlas and Text Book, amongst a few others. But I haven’t really mentioned other texts that have been especially helpful in piecing together the value of studying and understanding the context of human osteology for me, personally. The following publications are a collection of reference books and technical manuals that have proved helpful in understanding human and non-human skeletal material, adult and non-adult remains, and on various aspects of forensic science. I have dipped into some, read others completely – regardless they are of importance and of some use to the human osteologist and osteoarchaeologist.
So without further ado here are a few osteological and forensic themed books that have proved especially helpful to me over the past few years (and hopefully for many more years to come!):
I. Human and Nonhuman Bone Identification: A Colour Atlas. Diane L. France. 2009. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Aimed at the forensic anthropologist, this concise comparative osteology guide on how to identify human skeletal remains compares and highlights anatomical differences between numerous (largely North American) mammal species (such as seal, cow, mountain sheep, domestic sheep, moose etc.). This book highlights well the challenges faced in recognising skeletal material in the field, and trying to distinguish whether the remains are human or not. Organised largely by element from superior to inferior (crania to pedal phalanges) into three sections, each detailing a different theme – 1. General Osteology (which includes gross/anatomy/growth/development), 2. major Bones of Different Animals (which are grouped by bone) and 3. Skeletal Elements of Human and Nonhuman Animals (which includes bones from each species shown together). This is a great immediate reference to recognising the osteological landmarks of various species. This book should be of particular importance to forensic anthropologists, osteoarchaeologists and zooarchaeologists.
II. Developmental Juvenile Osteology. Louise Scheuer & Sue Black (illustrations by Angela Christie). 2000. London: Elsevier Academic Press.
At the time of publication this volume was one of the few human osteological books focusing purely on the developmental osteology of juveniles. Arranged into eleven chapters, the book details an introduction to skeletal development and aging, bone development and ossification, and embryological development before focusing chapters to specific areas of the human body (vertebral column, pectoral girdle, lower limb etc.). The book is really quite important in understanding the juvenile skeletal, as to the untrained eye juvenile material can look nonhuman. For any forensic anthropologist, human osteologists, or osteoarchaeologist examining juvenile skeletal material this volume is one of the best publications available in order to recognise and understand the skeletal anatomy that can be present at forensic or archaeological sites. It is also recommended for field archaeologists who may come across juvenile skeletal material and be unaware of what it exactly is.
III. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Palaeopathology. Arthur C. Aufdeheide & Conrado Rodríguez-Martín (including a dental chapter by Odin Langsjoen). 1998. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
A standard reference book in the fields of archaeology, palaeopathology and human osteology, the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Palaeopathology presents concise yet detailed descriptions and photographs documenting the variety of diseases and trauma that can affect the human skeleton. This is a standard reference book that is heavily used in the osteoarchaeological field. Split into chapters that detail each kind of skeletal lesion, and its recognition, within a type (endocrine disorders, skeletal dysplasia, metabolic disease, trauma, infectious diseases, etc.), the volume describes contextualises each entry with its known history, etiology, epidemiology, geography and antiquity. Soft tissues diseases that can be found on mummies, or otherwise fleshed bodies from archaeological contexts, are also highlighted and discussed.
IV. Identification of Pathological Conditions in Human Skeletal Remains: Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology No. 28. Donald J. Ortner & Walter G. J. Putschar. 1981. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.
As above, this publication is another standard reference book for identifying pathological conditions in the human skeletal. The 1981 edition is now slightly out of date regarding the etiology of some of the diseases discussed in this work, but the photographic images depicting the gross osteological change are still reliable. Regardless this is still a vital book in understanding the development and sheer breadth of palaeopathology as a field in itself.
V. Forensic Taphonomy: The Postmortem Fate of Human Remains. Edited by William D. Haglund & Marcella H. Sorg. 1997. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Forensic taphonomy, the study of the processes that affect decomposition, burial and erosion of bodies, is the focus of this publication. This edited volume contains chapters discussing a wide range of different aspects of forensic taphonomy. Split into five sections (1. taphonomy in the forensic context, 2. Modifications of soft tissue, bone, and associated materials, 3. Scavenged remains, 4. Buried and protected remains, 5. Remains in water) the book provides an overall perspective on important issues with pertinent case studies and techniques referenced throughout.
VI. Advances in Forensic Taphonomy: Method, Theory and Archaeological Perspectives. Edited by William D. Haglund & Marcella H. Sorg. 2001. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
The second volume of the Forensic Taphonomy publication, this updated edition deals more widely with the issues that surround the bioarchaeological perspectives of forensic taphonomy, and how it relates to forensic anthropology. This version includes chapters focusing on mass graves and their connection to war crimes (archaeological and forensic approaches), understanding the microenvironment surrounding human remains, interpretation of burned remains, updates in geochemical and entomological analysis, and also highlights the updated field techniques and laboratory analysis. Again this is another hefty publication and one that I have only dipped in and out of, but it is well worth a read as it can bring new insights into the archaeological contexts of human remains.
VII. Skeletal Trauma: Identification of Injuries Resulting from Human Rights Abuse and Armed Conflict. Edited by Erin H. Kimmerle & José Pablo Baraybar. 2008. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
This publication focuses on human rights violations in conflicts where forensic evidence is to be used in international tribunals. It highlights a variety of case studies throughout each of the eight chapters from the numerous contributors (including the late Clyde Snow), describing both the protocols for forensic examination in human rights abuse and violations to the specifics of different classes of trauma (blast, blunt force trauma, skeletal evidence of torture, gunfire etc.). Importantly the first two chapters focus on an epidemiological approach to forensic investigations of abuse and to the differential diagnoses of skeletal injuries that forensic anthropologists should be aware of (congenital or pathological conditions, peri- vs postmortem injuries, normal skeletal variation etc.).
VIII. The Colour Atlas of the Autopsy. Scott A. Wagner. 2004. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
A slight deviation from the curve above perhaps, but this is an informative read on why and how autopsies are carried out. It also introduces the purpose and philosophy of the autopsy, and then the importance of circumstantial and medical history of the individual. The book is, after the first chapter, set out in a step by step style of the procedure with numerous images, helping to detail the aim of the autopsy in medical and forensic contexts. The book also details the different types of trauma that can be inflicted on the human body (blunt force, sharp, projectile, ballistic, etc.) and their telltale signs on flesh. It is certainly not a book for the faint of heart, but it is informative of modern medical practice, of a procedure that has had a long and somewhat troubled history of acceptance but still remains a decisive procedure in forensic contexts.
Although this is just a short selection of publications in the fields of osteology, biological anthropology and forensic anthropology, I hope it gives a quick taste of the many different branches that can make up studying and practicing human osteology. A few of the publications highlighted above are reference books with chapters by various authors, or are technical manuals, highlighting the step by step techniques and why those methods are used. A number of the publications above remain standard reference books, while others will of course date somewhat as new techniques and scientific advances come into play (perhaps most evidently in the forensic contexts). However the core value of the publication will remain as evidence of the advancements in the above fields.
Writing this post has also reminded me that I must join the nearest university library as soon as I can…
Learn From One Another
This is just a snapshot of my own readings and a few of the publications have since been revised. I’d be happy to hear what readers of this blog, and others like it, have read and recommend in the above fields. Please feel free to leave a comment below!
The reason that CRC Press appear often in this selection is because the organisation is a recognised publisher of technical manuals in the science fields.