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Skeletal Pathology and Trauma

Identifying pathology and trauma is a critical step in forensic analysis. Watch Dr Rebecca Gowland explain more.

In this section, we’re going to talk about skeletal pathology, so abnormal changes on the bones. As you might expect, this is a vast subject, there have been lots of textbooks written on it and we teach a whole Master’s Course on skeletal pathology here at Durham University.

From a bioarchaeological perspective, we look at skeletal pathology to try and find out how people lived in the past, how they interacted with each other and their environment. From a forensic perspective, we look at skeletal pathology in order to try and identify the individual. We also look at pathology to find evidence of peri-mortem trauma or traumatic lesions that might be consistent with the cause of death or might tell us something about the circumstances of death.

There are a wide variety of diseases that can affect the skeleton, but bone has a limited set of responses to disease. It either takes bone away, forms new bone or a combination of both. So what I’m going to do here is just take you through some of the basics of recording these changes, so that later on, you can perhaps attempt a diagnosis.

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Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology

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