I think one of the more interesting things that forensic anthropologist do is look at bone pathology.
(Side note: I am biased. Skeletal pathology is my jam!)
Pathology looks for abnormality- weird stuff. These abnormalities can tell a very rich story! Bones tend to operate, grow, and react with a fair bit of regularity within living creatures. It’s when they don’t grow, operate and react as expected that the journey really begins. However, bone trauma is something of a different journey- perhaps a journey interrupted.
These interruptions can happen due to accident, violence, infection. Professionals use this information to create bone biographies for the person that is being examined and investigated. These bone biographies help solve crime, resolve mysteries, bring peace to families, advance science and biological inquiry, and a whole host of other cool stuff! Here’s a tiny look at the information included in a bone biography.
This skull shows blunt force trauma. The round, quarter sized hole indicates a tool like a hammer. If you look along the edges of the hole, you’ll notice that the bone curves inward- indicating that the blow came from above and down. There is no remodeling to the wound. Remodeling is what happens when a broken or crack bone heals. When bone has time to heal itself, the bone is usually smooth and rounded. But if there is no time to heal, that usually means that the body died as a cause of the injury or very close to the time that the injury occurred.
The image to the right is a set of ribs that show abnormalities due to an infection. Infections that aren’t treated or that are aggressive settle into the bone and begin to eat away at it. “Pus spreads into the bone’s blood vessels, impairing their flow, and areas of devitalized infected bone, known as sequestra, form the basis of a chronic infection.” The result of which you can see in this bone trauma along the rib.
Wanna see more? Check out this site: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/visibleproofs/galleries/exhibition/body_image_28.html