Core Principles: Comparative Osteology

Primary Course Instructors: Sara Getz, Ph.D., D-ABFA; Joe Adserias-Garriga, DDS, Ph.D.;
Dennis Dirkmaat, Ph.D., D-ABFA; and Rhian Dunn, M.S.
The goal of this five-day short course is to familiarize the participants with bones (human and non-human) frequently encountered in biological, bioarchaeological, and forensic contexts. Emphasis will be placed on differentiating human from non-human skeletal material, identifying and siding human bones, recognizing sub-adult human remains, and identifying skeletal elements from different species of mammals and birds.

The first two days of the course (May 22-23) will focus on the basics of human osteology. Lectures will focus on human skeletal anatomy, bone siding keys, and a consideration of normal variation due to age, sex, ancestry, and pathology. Participants will utilize the extensive collection of over 40 donated human remains curated in the Ted Rathbun Osteology Laboratory at Mercyhurst University. The following two days of the course (May 24-25) will focus on the identification of mammalian and avian bones, based on the collection of over 70 species of animals curated in the Mercyhurst zooarchaeology collection. The last day of the course (May 26) will focus entirely on human and animal dental anatomy.

One of the highlights of this course is the extensive hands-on opportunity of working with the extensive Mercyhurst osteological collections.

May 23-27, 2022


Course Location: Mercyhurst University, Erie, PA


Course Participants: Individuals over 18yrs of age. Limed to 20 participants.

  1. College and University students (undergraduate and graduate);

  2. College professors and instructors (teaching classes in Forensic Anthropology, Biological Anthropology, Forensic Science, Criminalistics, Medicolegal Death Investigation, and Criminal Law); and

  3. Professionals in law enforcement, criminal investigation, medicolegal death investigation, and the legal profession (prosecutors, defense attorneys).