Bone Quizzes

Bone fragments, summer 2013

If you’ve ever taken an osteology course, you’re no doubt familiar with the excruciating crucible that is the bone quiz. Much like anatomy practicals, bone quizzes are designed to test your knowledge of osteology by allowing you to visually examine and/or handle human remains in order to identify features and structures. However, in sharp contrast to staid and stolid gross anatomy instructors, osteology professors have a perverse sense of humour, mixing in faunal remains, ceramic sherds, turtle shell, alligator scutes, and pebbles with the actual human remains that you have, at least in theory, learned to identify. During a typical bone quiz, you will be  given a short amount of time (generally 30 seconds to 2 minutes) to examine a fragment of bone, and will be asked to answer the following questions:

  • Human/Non-Human?
  • Adult/Juvenile?
  • Element?
  • Side (left or right)?
  • Is there evidence of pathology/can you identify specific features?
I think....hang on....yes, this is probably human.

I think….hang on….yes, this is probably human.

While studying for bone quizzes can be an infuriating process (“Who on earth needs to know how to side the lesser wing of a sphenoid without comparative specimens? Is there ever going to be a time in my life when a James Bond style villain tells me to orient these lateral and medial pterygoid plates, without using White, or the bomb will expode?!?”), the cumulative experience of learning human osteology at this level of detail lays the groundwork for solid bioarchaeological practice.

After submitting yourself to enough of these grueling ordeals, you’ll eventually hit the point when you start orienting fragments as soon as you pick them up, unconsciously noting relevant features and slotting the piece into the larger puzzle that forms your mental map of the human skeleton. To that end, I’ve assembled an archive of all of the visual bone quizzes I’ve created for this blog. These are useful if you’re a first time osteology student still learning the ropes, or if you’re an old hat just back from the field and can’t resist testing your skills. I’ll continue updating the archive as I create more bone quizzes, so you’ll can spend hours on a Friday night testing your tarsal identification skills (that’s what we all do with our Friday nights, right?). Answers to the bone quizzes are located below the jump at the end of each post, and are uploaded as soon as the next bone quiz is posted on the blog.

Good luck!

Bone Quizzes

Bone Quiz 1,  Bone Quiz 2,  Bone Quiz 3

Bone Quiz 4,  Bone Quiz 5Bone Quiz 6

Bone Quiz 7,  Bone Quiz 8,  Bone Quiz 9

Bone Quiz 10,  Bone Quiz 11, Bone Quiz 12

Bone Quiz 13Bone Quiz 14Bone Quiz 15.1

Bone Quiz 15.2, Bone Quiz 16, Bone Quiz 17 

Bone Quiz 18, Bone Quiz 19, Bone Quiz 20

Bone Quiz 21

Test Your Skills                                                                                                                          
These posts provide or link back to guides to a specific skeletal element, and then allow you to test your feature identification skills and siding of that specific element.
Calcaneus,  Temporal Bone (Zygomatic Process),

Note: Most of the specimens in these bone quizzes are human remains dating to the Spanish Copper Age, ~4,000-5,000 years before present. While I try to make the quizzes more palatable by adding a dash of flippant humor to their introductions, always remember that these images represent the remains of once-living individuals. The images and the individuals they represent should be treated with all the respect that you would like the remains of yourself or your family to be accorded post-mortem.

Image Credits: Image on this page were taken at the Museo de Jaén in summer 2013 and 2014.

3 Responses to Bone Quizzes

  1. Pingback: Upcoming Zooarchaeology & Human & Non-Human Comparative Osteology Courses at the University of Sheffield, September 2016 | These Bones Of Mine

  2. jpbenson99 says:

    While digging a fence post hole I uncovered some old bone fragments. While they appear to be a large mammal – perhaps human – I am unable to ID or age specifically. Searching the internet I came upon the bone quiz which was both informative and entertaining. Other websites aren’t very helpful to the layperson. Is there a website where a person can submit bone pics for possible identification?


    • JB says:

      Hi JP! If you think you’ve found human remains, you might want to send the photos to a forensic anthropologist, potentially via your local police. How big are these fragments?


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