Sanita's Skeleton Profiling video transcript

00:00

I specialise in forensic anthropology

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which is concerned with analysing

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skeletal remains. Anytime that skeletal

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remains are found, I go out to the sites

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to assess the importance of that

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particular find. This skeleton I came

00:18

across up in Northumberland and what had

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happened essentially was that it's a

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field that's been farmed for generations

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but the burial was quite deep and it was only

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by accident that this year they moved

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to the top stone with the machinery and

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as it moved all the farmer could see was

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the head from underneath. As a result 

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the archaeologist was called who then

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ultimately called me and they got very

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very excited because it's been a very

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long time that we have found a Kiss Beaker

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burial up north. I mean this

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one in particular based on the pottery

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that was found we knew that it was

00:55

Bronze Age so we're looking at

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approximately three and a half thousand

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years ago which is absolutely amazing

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for that particular region because like

01:03

I said we've not seen anything in a long

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time up there.

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What we tend to do as anthropologists, is

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we conduct something called a profile

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and that profile usually consists of

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whether it's a male or a female, how old

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they were when they died, how tall they

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were, ancestral backgrounds and also if

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there's any pathology of trauma served

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have they got any healed fractures, any

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infection and things like that may help

01:30

us to interpret the lifestyle and

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possibly manner of death as well. With

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this skeleton it’s well preserved

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considering the age but it is poorly

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preserved for us to do any specialised

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analysis so what we can do is the visual

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assessments of the bones looking at the

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shape and the overall size of each

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particular elements. There are metric

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assessments available but because of the

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extent of the damage we won't be able to

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use the metric analysis because some of

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the areas the bone are actually worn or

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broken down so we can't take the right

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measurements. Visually what we can do is

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determine the sex of the individual,

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determine the age determine, how tall

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they were and also their ancestral

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background so we can still get a really

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nice profile of who this person might

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have been but with regards to pathology

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and trauma unfortunately due to the

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damage most of that has has has been

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lost.

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This has kind of allowed us to think

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that there is potential out there so we

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do need to go back to other sites in

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other areas of that it was found

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essentially by accident which is the

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beauty of some of these things that

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there's so much history out there that

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we don't actually know is there so what

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I'd like to do is go back up and

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actually maybe have a look at using

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ground-penetrating radar and technology

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like that to be able to identify looking at

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are there any other burials, was there

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actually a settlement there that we

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didn't know about which may hopefully

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enrich our cultural and historical

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knowledge of the area.

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I think that skeletal remains

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not only in modern populations but in

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archaeological context and massively

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underappreciated in terms as a source of

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information. You know you can get pottery,

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you can get amazing buildings but they

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don't tell you the health of the person,

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they don't tell you how many men and

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women were there, how old were they when

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they died, did they have a particular

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condition, were they all infected with

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something. With regards to learning from

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them we can look at where certain

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infections have come and gone across the

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world on a global scale you can kind of

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map where we've migrated to and from and

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you know how we've involved and all that

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sort of stuff which I think is under

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looked and underappreciated, because they go

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oh it’s just a bone but actually it's not,

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it's our history and potentially even our

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future because what we can learn from

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them we can put measures into place to

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prevent other things from happening so I

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think they are the unsung heroes of

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information.

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[Music]

Sanita's Skeleton Profiling video

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