Skeleton

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The bony supporting element in the bodies of vertebrate animals. It consists of the axial skeleton - skull (including teeth) and vertebral column - and the appendicular skeleton - ribs, girdles and limbs. In man, the proportions of various bones are fairly generalized, but in other animals bones may become eliminated, elongated, or strengthened. Only broken fragments of the skeleton usually survive on archaeological sites, except in such cases as deliberate burial. For this reason, human bones are often studied separately from those of other animals. In the case of most animals, the parts which survive are a function of butchery. Identification of species may be possible when there is a considerable number of fragments.

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The bony supporting element in the bodies of vertebrate animals. It consists of the axial skelton — skull (excluding teeth) and vertebral column — and the appendicular skeleton — ribs, girdles and limbs. The upper (in man) or front (in quadrupeds) limb in mammals consist of the following bones: clavicle and scapula (the pectoral girdle), humerus, radius and ulna, carpals (wrist bones), metacarpals (bones of the palm of the hand) and phalanges (finger bones). The lower or hind limb consists of the following: innominate bones (the pelvic girdle), femur, tibia and fibula, tarsals (ankle bones), metatarsals (bones of the arch of the foot) and phalanges (toe bones). In man, the proportions of these various bones are fairly generalized, but in other animals bones may become eliminated, elongated or strengthened. In the horse, for example, the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th digits have been lost and the animal balances on greatly enlarged 3rd metapodials (metacarpal or metatarsal) and phalanges. Similarly, in the ruminants (cattle, sheep, deer etc) all digits except the 3rd and 4th have been lost. These animals balance on their 3rd and 4th metapodials, enlarged and fused together, and a cloven hoof formed of the enlarged 3rd and 4th phalanges. Only broken fragments of the skeleton usually survive on archaeological sites, except in such cases as deliberate burial. For this reason human bones are often studied separately from those of other animals. In the case of most mammals, the parts which survive are a function of butchery, and reflect the joints of meat which were brought to the site, cooking, and the robustness of the bones. Thus the bones that survive most often are those which form the refuse of butchery and which are robust. These include horn cores, parts of the large long bones, metapodials and phalanges, and sections of ribs. The fragmentary nature of skeletal material found on archaeological sites makes study difficult. Identification to species may be possible with a considerable number of fragments, but there is always a large pile that cannot be identified. Similar difficulties may be experienced with ageing and sexing skeletons, and with estimating relative numbers of individuals, proportions of bone fragments from different species, or relative meat weight. See also

The Macmillan dictionary of archaeology, Ruth D. Whitehouse, 1983Copied

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