Osteological collections with known provenience (e.g. donated collections) across the world are growing in popularity; however, the majority of students of medicine and anthropology learn skeletal anatomy and variation from anatomical teaching specimens. In contrast to donated collections, anatomical teaching specimens housed at academic institutions tend to have no known provenience or confirmed biological statistics. For students, learning the processes of constructing a biological profile become convoluted as there is usually no confirmed answer to compare their assessments to. Anatomical material used in academia also poses problems for forensic anthropologists as such specimen are often misplaced and mistaken to be forensic in nature. Moreover, anthropologists rely mostly on taphonomic changes made to the cranium to deduce if the material is academic in nature (e.g. the postmortem addition of screws and hooks to detach and attach a calotte to the cranium). This study assesses the ancestry of anatomical crania and aims to determine if such crania are representative of a homologus group. Craniometric landmark data were collected from 65 anatomical crania (N=65) from universities and medical schools using a MicroScribe G2x digitizer and 3Skull. From the landmark data, craniometric measurements were calculated and the measurements were analyzed using FORDISC 3.0. Results indicate that the majority of anatomical teaching crania do not correlate with any ancestral groups represented in the Howells data set nor do they correlate with ancestral groups represented in the Forensic Data Bank. These results imply that anatomical specimen may still be representative of a homologus group however, more research is needed to understand the ancestral background of these individuals before that assumption can be confirmed.


UTK Department of Anthropology, GSU Department of Anthropology, KSU Department of Geography and Anthropology, PCOM

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