One way Forensic Anthropologists tell the stories of people whose bones they study is to compare them to a collection of similar bones. Use this collection of femora (thigh bones) to begin your exploration of how our bones tell the stories of our lives.
Start by finding the normal femur (thigh bone) and then compare it to the collection of bones with a variety of pathologies (the causes and effects of disease or trauma). What do you see? What happened to the people represented by the femora in this collection?
Studying Human Bones
By studying human bones, physical and forensic anthropologists can learn a number of things about events of the past and the present, and the people who experienced them. The condition of bones, the location they are found in, and items they are found with can inform researchers about burial practices and the circumstances leading to disposal of the remains. The bones themselves can tell researchers how old a person was, how tall they may have been, if they were male or female, and what role they played in their society. Information on diet and activities in life can be found in bones by looking at their composition. Researchers can also learn about diseases that leave marks in bones and how they affect individuals and populations through time. Bones can sometimes tell researchers how a person died and this information may help law enforcement agencies solve modern forensic cases.
About the Terry Collection
The Robert J. Terry Anatomical Collection is one of the world's premier anatomical research and teaching collections. It represents a mostly pre-antibiotic, early 20th century population from the midwestern part of the United States that can be compared to 21st-century skeletal remains to assess biological changes in the American population related to growth, health, disease, diet, and demography. Due to the completeness of the supporting information and excellent skeletal preservation, it is a primary resource for studies of bone pathology, skeletal biology, and forensic anthropology, averaging nearly 100 scholarly visits each year. This collection is fundamental for measuring the American experience during the past two centuries and is invaluable as a reference series for classroom instruction and training the next generation of osteologists, skeletal biologists and bone-focused medical professionals.
The collection is now being incorporated into long-distance learning through online databases and digital 3D imaging due to increasing requests for access and high levels of interest from medical and university communities.