Osteoarchaeology: The Truth in Our Bones

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Osteoarchaeology: The Truth in Our Bones

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About this course: This course is about what we can learn from examining the human skeleton, and how we can use this knowledge to reconstruct the lives of people who lived in the past. In archaeology and anthropology, human skeletal remains can provide unique insights into the past and the present; insights that cannot be gained otherwise. These insights are explored in five main themes spread out over five weeks of learning. First, it is shown how age-at-death, sex and stature can be estimated by the close examination of (archaeological) skeletal remains. In subsequent modules it is shown how human bones can provide information about the diseases and injuries that people suffered from …

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Didn't find what you were looking for? See also: Archaeology, Social Sciences, Social Studies, Culture, and Classics.

When you enroll for courses through Coursera you get to choose for a paid plan or for a free plan

  • Free plan: No certicification and/or audit only. You will have access to all course materials except graded items.
  • Paid plan: Commit to earning a Certificate—it's a trusted, shareable way to showcase your new skills.

About this course: This course is about what we can learn from examining the human skeleton, and how we can use this knowledge to reconstruct the lives of people who lived in the past. In archaeology and anthropology, human skeletal remains can provide unique insights into the past and the present; insights that cannot be gained otherwise. These insights are explored in five main themes spread out over five weeks of learning. First, it is shown how age-at-death, sex and stature can be estimated by the close examination of (archaeological) skeletal remains. In subsequent modules it is shown how human bones can provide information about the diseases and injuries that people suffered from and what they ate. Also, it is shown how the human skeleton provides information about the kinds of activities that people engaged in and about how they migrated and moved around their landscapes. In this course, you will examine all aspects of the human skeleton that can provide us with information about these different facets of life. Together we will explore the scientific field that is known as human osteoarchaeology. - Human, because it is about us and our ancestors, - Osteo, because it is about our bones, - Archaeology, because we use this information to better understand the behaviors and events experienced by past people. During the course, you will decipher the clues left behind in the skeletons of past peoples with the methods and techniques that are presented. You may also discover some clues hidden in your own skeleton and what they reveal about the life that you are living. Want to know more? You can take a look at the course trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJi22TxzpRw

Who is this class for: This course is for anyone who is keen to learn about what human skeletal remains can teach us about life in the past. People with an interest in archaeology, history, anthropology, biology, medical sciences, and any other fields are all very welcome. No previous knowledge is needed to complete this course. This course is free, and will remain free for participants. You can purchase a certificate.

Created by:  Universiteit Leiden
  • Taught by:  Andrea Waters-Rist, Assistant Professor

    Faculty of Archaeology
Level Beginner Commitment This course consists of 5 weeks of study, with about four to six hours of study required each week. Language English How To Pass Pass all graded assignments to complete the course. User Ratings 4.6 stars Average User Rating 4.6See what learners said Coursework

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Universiteit Leiden Leiden University is one of Europe's foremost research universities. This prominent position gives our graduates a leading edge in applying for academic posts and for functions outside academia. Leiden University is the oldest university in the Netherlands. It was founded in February 1575, as a gift from William of Orange to the citizens of Leiden after they had withstood a long siege by the Spanish. Our motto is: Praesidium Libertatis — Bastion of Liberty.

Syllabus


WEEK 1


Introduction to the course



Hello and welcome to this course, Osteoarchaeology, the Truth in Our Bones. In this first, introductory module, you will learn about what this course is about and how it is set up. Watch the first three lectures to learn more about what Osteoarchaeology is, and the topics that you will be exploring each week. Read the course documents to find out more about how you will be graded and the tests you will be taking in each module. You will also find some documents that will help you to get the most out of this MOOC. Good luck!


3 videos, 8 readings expand


  1. Video: Welcome to the Course! - Trailer
  2. Video: Welcome to the Course! - Course Introduction
  3. Video: Course Set-Up
  4. Reading: Meet the Instructors & Team
  5. Reading: Welcome to Leiden University!
  6. Reading: Basic Anatomical Terminology
  7. Reading: Names of Bones in the Skeleton
  8. Reading: Human Skeleton - Learn the Basics
  9. Reading: Studytips for Studying Online
  10. Reading: Being Successful in an International Virtual Learning Community - Guidelines
  11. Reading: Behaving in an Academic Way
  12. Discussion Prompt: Introduce Yourself!


Bones to Biography & Demography



Welcome to the first content module of this course! This week is all about introducing you to the primary things that we can learn from nearly all human skeletons. Who are the people who lived in the past? Are they men, women or children? How old did they become, and how tall did they get? We can answer these questions by studying a range of bones contained in the human skeleton. Here, we will be showing you exactly how to do that, and hope you will learn a lot!


11 videos, 3 readings expand


  1. Video: Subadult Age-at-Death Estimation
  2. Video: Adult Age-at-Death Estimation
  3. Video: Sex Estimation
  4. Video: Stature Reconstruction
  5. Video: Discussion: How to?
  6. Discussion Prompt: Actual Age versus Skeletal Age
  7. Discussion Prompt: Differing Age Estimations in Men and Women?
  8. Discussion Prompt: How Tall Are You Really?
  9. Reading: Glossary
  10. Reading: Optional Reading List
  11. Video: Longbone Length to Estimate Subadult Age
  12. Video: Dental Formation to Estimate Subadult Age
  13. Video: Pubic Symphysis to Estimate Adult Age
  14. Video: Auricular Surface to Estimate Adult Age
  15. Video: Using the Phenice Traits to Estimate Sex
  16. Video: Using Longbone Length to Estimate Stature
  17. Reading: Instructions: Solve the Mystery 1

Graded: Test your Knowledge
Graded: Solve the Mystery 1

WEEK 2


Bones to Disease and Trauma



Welcome to the second module! This week is all about disease in the past. How healthy were people really, and what diseases did they suffer from? We will show you how to answer these questions by studying the diseases that can be detected in human skeletal remains. We specifically focus on trauma including bone fractures, but also the diseases rickets and leprosy.


8 videos, 2 readings, 1 practice quiz expand


  1. Video: Paleopathology: Introduction
  2. Video: Paleopathology: Bone biology
  3. Practice Quiz: Optional Quiz: Pathological or Healthy?
  4. Video: Paleopathology: Trauma
  5. Discussion Prompt: Modern Practices Affecting your Skeleton
  6. Discussion Prompt: Have You Broken a Bone?
  7. Video: Paleopatholgy: Rickets
  8. Video: Paleopathology: Leprosy
  9. Video: Discussion 1, Violence
  10. Discussion Prompt: Are Humans Inherently Violent?
  11. Video: Discussion 2, Modern Medicine
  12. Discussion Prompt: Has Modern Medicine Improved Our Lives?
  13. Reading: Glossary
  14. Reading: Optional Reading List
  15. Video: Examples of Bone Fractures

Graded: Test your Knowledge
Graded: Solve the Mystery 1

WEEK 3


Bones to Diet



Welcome to the third module! This week is all about diet in the past. What did people eat in the past and in what proportions? Did different groups of people eat different things, and did their diet change throughout time? This week we will show you how to answer such questions by studying the human skeleton. We will be focussing on the analysis of stable isotopes like Carbon and Nitrogen that can be found in human bones and teeth.


6 videos, 2 readings expand


  1. Video: Paleodiet: Introduction
  2. Video: Paleodiet: Principles of Stable Isotope Analysis
  3. Video: Paleodiet: Stable Isotope Case Study Part 1
  4. Video: Paleodiet: Stable Isotopes Case Study Part 2
  5. Video: Paleodiet: Caries in the Maya
  6. Discussion Prompt: Poor People's Food?
  7. Video: Discusion: The "Paleodiet" Trend
  8. Discussion Prompt: The "Paleodiet" Trend
  9. Reading: Glossary
  10. Reading: Optional Reading List

Graded: Test your Knowledge
Graded: Solve the Mystery 1

WEEK 4


Bones to Activity



Welcome to module four! This week is all about activity. What activities did people perform in the past? How did they move about, and how much? We will be answering these questions by studying many different aspects of the skeleton, like long bones, joints, the spine, and even teeth. We will be showing you what all these marks mean, and what they can tell us today about activities performed in the past.


7 videos, 2 readings expand


  1. Video: Activity: Introduction
  2. Discussion Prompt: Why Do You "Work"?
  3. Video: Activity: the Musculoskeletal System
  4. Video: Activity: Entheseal Changes
  5. Video: Activity: Joint Degeneration
  6. Discussion Prompt: Do You have Joint Degeneration?
  7. Video: Activity: Teeth as Tools
  8. Discussion Prompt: Have You Used Your Teeth as a "Third Hand"?
  9. Video: Activity: Discussion
  10. Discussion Prompt: Are Humans Naturally Lazy?
  11. Reading: Glossary
  12. Reading: Optional Reading List
  13. Video: Scoring Entheseal Change

Graded: Test your Knowledge
Graded: Solve the Mystery 1

WEEK 5


Bones to Mobility and Migration



Welcome to the last module of this course! This week is all about mobility and migration, so people moving through the landscape. How much did people relocate, and where did they go? We can answer these questions by looking at the shape of longbones, and by studying the isotopes and the DNA that can be found in human bones. Stick with us to find out how exactly these methods work, and what they reveal about population movements in the past.


6 videos, 2 readings expand


  1. Video: Mobility and Migration: Introduction
  2. Discussion Prompt: How Mobile Are You?
  3. Video: Mobility and Migration: Long Bone Morphology
  4. Video: Mobility and Migration: Strontium Isotopes
  5. Discussion Prompt: Your Movement Visible in Your Strontium Signature?
  6. Video: Mobility and Migration: Ancient DNA
  7. Video: Mobility and Migration: Discussion
  8. Discussion Prompt: Are Humans Naturally Inclined to Migrate?
  9. Video: Thank You and Good Luck! :)
  10. Reading: Glossary
  11. Reading: Optional Reading List

Graded: Test your Knowledge
Graded: Solve the Mystery 1
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