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Summer SAVY 2018: Session 1, Day 2 – Bioarchaeology (Rising 5th and 6th)

Posted by on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 in Grade 5, Grade 6, SAVY.

Today, we got aHEAD of the game by taking a look at the human skull. Students had a chance to explore the skull models and hypothesize what different features might before, and then we dove into lecture, led us into learning about the bones in the skull and how they develop as you age. When you are born, not all of your skull bones are fused together, but as you grow, they begin to grow together and make the solid surfaces in your skull. We see this in the cranial sutures, or places of fusion. The three main sutures, coronal, sagittal, and lambdoidal, can be analyzed to guess approximate age. Some sutures on older skulls have even been obliterated!

After learning how to use sutures to predict age, we moved on to another skeletal feature– teeth. Teeth have a specific developmental pattern that is a more specific indicator of age.  Adults have a pattern of 2-1-2-3: 2 incisors, 1 canine, 2 premolars, and 3 molars in each quadrant of their mouth. Children, on the other hand follow the pattern of 2-1-2: 2 incisors, 1 canine, and 2 molars. As we grow and develop, there is a pattern to the way the teeth come in that can tell us the age of the skeleton. The students used their model skulls to look at the teeth and make their best guess on the age.

Next, we worked on estimating skeletal gender based on the skull. There are five distinct pieces of the skull (supra-orbital ridge, supra-orbital margin, mastoid process, nuchal crest, and mental eminence) that can be a good indicator of the gender of the person.

Finally, we ended with making our very own skulls…out of clay of course! The students crafted a clay a skull, adding markers of skeletal gender in red. Throughout the day, we discussed how being female or male may influence the way that we live (and how our lives shape our skeletons) – a fact that is in part biological, but is also largely based on social stereotypes that we often encounter.

Questions to ask at dinner:

  • Ask your student to point out the different markers on the skull that can be used to determine a more masculine or more feminine skeleton

  • Ask your students to explain when teeth first start forming, and how we can tell how old someone is by their teeth.

Dr. Keitlyn Alcantara

Examining the Human Skull