The Human Skeleton

Introduction to The Skeletal Series

The Skeletal Series blog posts introduces the basic aspects and issues surrounding human skeletal remains in an archaeological context and provides a series of posts detailing the skeletal anatomy of each part of the human body (the head, the arm, the leg, etc.).  One of the main aims of this site is to inform the general and interested audience of the skeletal system and to become familiar with the anatomy of each skeletal element.  The second aim of this site is to introduce the audience as to what the human osteologist, or bioarchaeologist, can learn from the use of human remains from the archaeological and anthropological contexts.  This includes studying individual skeletons and studying series of skeletons, from various temporal and geographical contexts.

Below is an excellent example of what looks like one skeleton found in a prehistoric archaeological context in Denmark.  However careful examination reveals that two individuals are present: those of an adult individual and those of a neonate individual.  Great care has been taken to record the skeletons in-situ in the photograph below.  In human osteology (as in bioarchaeology and physical anthropology) great care must always be taken in the interpretation of the skeletal remains, as context, especially in archaeological and forensic situations, is often the key to understanding the remains themselves.

A Mesolithic Ertebølle culture burial depicting an adult individual and a neonate individual buried in a supine position (flat, on their backs).  This burial is a prime example of the fragility of the smaller and flat bones in the human skeletal system.  Care and respect must taken at all times in the excavation and analysis of buried remains.

How the posts are ordered

The posts regarding the skeletal elements are generally ordered in the following manner:

A) A general introduction to the specific part of the body of under consideration, highlighting the general anatomy.

B) What to expect when excavating the skeletal elements in question and how to prepare.

C) The specific anatomical and skeletal landmarks of each element under discussion, including how to recognize and side elements with diagrams or photographs, where possible.

D) Finally, the post is followed up with a case presentation or a discussion to conclude the post and contextualize the information presented.

Although the skeletal anatomy is the main contingent of the posts (please see the list below), the musculature and anatomy are referenced where appropriate for a detailed understanding of the human body during life and for understanding the influence of soft anatomy’s impact on the skeletal anatomy.  The later Skeletal Series posts will deal with specific aspects of how the human osteologist, or bioarchaeologist, analyses the skeleton to gain knowledge on past populations and human behaviour.  This will include A) how to biologically sex an adult skeleton, B) how to estimate the age of a skeleton, and C) how to recognise the presence of basic skeletal palaeopathology that can be present on skeletal remains.  Continue to read about the human skeleton by clicking the links below!

The Skeletal Series Posts

The Basic Human Osteology Glossary

A: The Biological Basis of Bone and Anatomical Directional Terminology

B: The Biological Basis of Teeth and Anatomical Directional Terminology

Part 1: Bone Variation and Biomechanics

Part 2: Ethics in Human Osteology

Part 3: The Human Skull

Part 4: The Human Spine

Part 5:  The Human Rib Cage

Part 6: The Human Shoulder

Part 7: The Human Arm

Part 8: The Human Hand

Part 9: The Human Hip

Part 10: The Human Leg

Part 11: The Human Foot

Part 12: Human Teeth

Part 13: How to Age a Human Skeleton (forthcoming)

Part 14: How to Sex a Human Skeleton (forthcoming)

Part 15: Palaeopathology Present in Bones (forthcoming)

N.B. Please bear in mind that some of these posts were written a while ago and will require some updating at a future date.  I sincerely hope that these posts present a useful and interesting read, whilst also improving the general public knowledge of the human skeletal system.  Up to date academic references are noted on each post explicitly and, where possible, whether that resource is open access.  Within each of these academic references, with links provided to an article or book where possible, the reader will find much more detail on that specific aspect of human osteology and archaeology.  Please enjoy and share!

29 Responses to “The Human Skeleton”

  1. lucia March 17, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    I like this, it gives me a clear understanding about human body

  2. May 7, 2013 at 4:06 am #

    Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the images on this blog
    loading? I’m trying to determine if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.
    Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

    • These Bones Of Mine May 7, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

      It is working for me fine. Are there any particular images?

  3. Hayato Ochiai October 16, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

    If the individual was interred in a natural position, typically laid flat on their back, then it is relatively easy to identify the remains as human, male or female, young or old, etc.

  4. Augustine De la Crouse June 19, 2016 at 12:47 pm #

    My son is interested in becoming a forensic anthropologist and this would help him on his journey and become familiar with some of the terminology. Thanks

    • These Bones Of Mine June 19, 2016 at 2:22 pm #

      Dear Augustine,
      Thank you for the kind comment. I hope it does help him and good luck to him in his dream 🙂 Thank you once again.

  5. Marisa October 26, 2016 at 3:52 pm #

    I would like to know how much people know about McCune-Albright and Lion´s Face Syndromes. Read here: – I always wanted to speak with an Archaelogist and ask him if those medical conditions were found in ancient bones or how old were the bones found showing those conditions. Can somebody answer my question?

    • These Bones Of Mine October 27, 2016 at 12:46 am #

      Hello Marisa,
      Thank you so much for your comment. I run this blog and I also have McCune Albright Syndrome. I have wrote previously about it, and my experiences of it, here:

      This post also includes links to individuals that have been found with the condition in archaeology contexts (including historic and prehistoric periods). Some of these individuals date back from 1600 years ago to over 6000 years ago.

      Thank you for the link to Mauricio’s site – I have known about him and his inspiring work for some time, so it is an honour for you to message me on the blog.

      I hope this finds you well, if you want to talk further you can also email me using my email address on the ‘About’ page of this blog.

      Yours sincerely,


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