Trent Durham students in Oshawa make no bones about benefits of working with real skeletons


Published May 3, 2024 at 10:14 am

skeleton articulation
Students from several disciplines met in the Trent Durham Anthropology lab to disarticulate and properly store a donated skeleton.

Hands-on experience with real skeletons is an important learning tool for students in several different disciplines, no bones about it.

Ten undergraduate and graduate students from Anthropology, Archaeology, and Forensic Science programs at Trent University Durham participated in a hands-on experiential learning project this week, with a plan of developing an Osteology class at the Oshawa campus in the future.

The students, working with Trent anthropology professor Dr. Jennifer Newton, ‘disarticulated’ four donated skeletons to properly categorize and store the materials.

“It’s one thing to read about everything, but having real-life materials to review is such an important part of the learning process,” explained Newton, who organized the project.

The benefits of analyzing real bones vs. 3D-printed bones is the level of realistic detail, she said. The colouring, diversity, and variation between bones based on different people can’t always be replicated by bone models, making it important for students to have the opportunity to study the real materials.

The bones (which were ethically sourced and analyzed before donation to ensure they were not Indigenous) needed to be disarticulated to be properly stored in a concealed box in a cool and dry area to avoid sunlight exposure, which will slow down the rate of deterioration and help maintain its integrity.

That the students were from three different disciplines highlighted how different fields of study can intersect, Newton added.

Olivia Molica Lazzaro, a graduate of the Anthropology Master of Arts program, said opportunities like this give students hands-on, practical experience that helps build their resume and confidence in the field.

“Collaborating with a group of diverse backgrounds was amazing and gave lots of different perspectives and skills when handling the skeletal remains,” she said. “These projects have broadened my overall understanding of anthropology and archeology beyond classroom experiences and exposed me to different cultural contexts, research methodologies, and challenged me to think critically.”

indurham's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising