Feeling Shafted? Tips for identifying humeral shaft fragments

humeriI’ve been spending a lot of time lately sitting cross-legged on the floor of my office, refitting long bone shafts. This pastime  generally involves me hunching over a tray like a cranky oracle, brows furrowed, staring suspiciously at the bones for vast amounts of time. Occasionally I’ll spot a match and swiftly grab at seemingly random fragments while uttering an unconscious bark of triumph. And yes, the Spanish colleagues I share my office with are likely concerned about both my sanity and their safety. But I digress.

During most osteology quizzes, shaft frags tend to have a ‘tell’ – they come complete with distinctive muscle attachments like the soleal line or deltoid tuberosity, or they have handy nutrient foramina that  allow you to orient the bone. In the real (read: archaeological) world, however, such ‘tells’ can be few and far between, so oftentimes shafts must be identified based solely on their shape in cross-section. This can be particularly tricky as both the shape and diameter of long bone shafts change gradually along a superior-inferior gradient. While most textbooks give detailed written descriptions of such changes in cross-sectional form, visual depictions are harder to find – google image search “humeral shaft cross-section” and you’ll see what I mean. Little of use for the beleaguered novice osteologist. And when you do find cross-sectional drawings, they tend to derive from only a single part of the bone.

Accordingly, I spent a little bit of time sketching the cross-sectional shape of a fragmentary humerus from my dissertation collection and took a photo of it so you can see where exactly on the shaft the cross-sectional shape comes from. I  then translated my sketches into what we will term ‘charmingly primitive’ paint outlines, a la hyperbole and a half. Now you too can have a handy map of the humerus! Happy refitting!Humeral Shaft

Post-Script: Hahaha a “handy” map of the humerus. That pun wasn’t even intentional! I crack myself up sometimes. And on that note, time to actually go enjoy my Friday, a practice that the Spanish term  “cervezas“.

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3 Responses to Feeling Shafted? Tips for identifying humeral shaft fragments

  1. Pingback: Get a leg up on the competition: Tips for identifying femoral shaft fragments | Bone Broke

  2. Pingback: Feeling Shafted? Tips for identifying humeral shaft fragments | Beauty in the Bones

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