Seems like a slow week in the archaeology world of Southeast Asia, so here’s some pictures of the archaeological material I’m working on at the centre: skeletal remains from a site in Sarawak.
Skeletal remains don’t last very long in the archaeological environment; these are only about 1,000 years old but they’re already quite brittle. Each bone has to be carefully dusted using a stiff-haired paintbrush before being laid out on the table. After that comes the fun part: reassembly.
Which is a lot harder than it sounds, considering I never had a background in biology! Lucky for me, one of the other MA students also works at the local hospital as a forensic scientist. He taught me the tricks of putting a skull together, first by identifying pieces with similar thickness, and also through the lines found in the inner skull. Very much like a jigsaw puzzle in 3D – with a lot of the pieces missing. On my first try, it took me half an hour to get my first match. After that it’s a matter of cleaning the edges with a chemical solvent and then gluing them together. The pieces are set on a small sandbox overnight and then, voila! You’ve got one less piece to worry about.
Needless to say, it’s all painstaking work! All the remains (we’ve got a few skeletons) are fragmentary so it we use the skeleton model to cross-check where each piece might go. After an afternoon of searching, I only managed to pieces four pairs of skull fragments together before I got fuzzy-eyed.
– Early History (The Encyclopedia of Malaysia) by Nik Hassan Shuhaimi Nik Abdul Rahman (Ed)
– Biological Anthropology of the Human Skeleton
– Human Osteology, Second Edition
– Human Skeletal Remains: Excavation, Analysis, Interpretation
– Bioarchaeology: The Contextual Analysis of Human Remains (Bioarchaeology) (Bioarchaeology)