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Jack Biggs

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January 30, 2017

Wading Through Skeletal Aging Literature and Raphael.js

January 30, 2017 | By | No Comments

Apologies for my tardiness in posting!  It’s been an incredibly hectic semester so far and time keeps on slipping away!

Since my project is focused on subadult skeletal age estimation, I’ve really started going through the literature and publications over the subject.  On one hand, this is a great way for me to conduct in-depth literature reviews for my methods section of my comprehensive exams and prepare for my dissertation since I’m focusing on the growth and development of ancient Maya subadults and how social, environmental, and biological stressors affect those processes.  On the other hand, I’ve been running into a few academically-related brick walls.  One common thread I’ve found throughout most of the literature is that there really is no single-agreed upon method for most of the transitional age-related changes for any single bone or bone element.  Academia, especially Victorian and early 20th century academia when many of these studies originally took place, is full of researchers and their own opinions or just blasting other scholars’ methods.  Additionally, the racist roots of physical anthropology focused on non-white populations as a curiosity while only conducting comprehensive and in-depth studies of white European or American populations.  This is an unfortunate trend that extended embarrassingly far into the 20th century and was not until post-WWII that things began to change.

However, the vast majority of skeletal studies, as a result of large institutional collections, are still comprised of mostly white individuals which limits the degree of applicability for those studying cultures in non-white areas of the world where different cultures and environments greatly dictate development of the human skeleton.  As a result, the majority of the methods employed in this interactive website will be pulled from studies comprised of mostly white individuals, as those have most often been heavily researched.  For me, this is an unwanted convenience as it does not actually represent the full breadth of human variation that we see across populations and cultures across the globe.  (However, population-specific studies have become very popular and standards for specific regions and populations have increased, but not enough to the point yet to where I could effectively implement them into my website.)

An additional unwanted event occurred in which I accidentally discovered that another researcher is using the title ‘OSSA’ as well for his osteological software that statistically estimates ancestry.  It has not yet been published and is still in its beta test phase which is why nothing originally came up in my search for anyone else using that acronym.  Although I think I may technically finish my website before him and could thus use the name, this researcher is on my dissertation committee and I felt it wisest not to make them mad!  So for right now, the working title of the project is ‘Fontanelle’ in reference to the spaces on the cranium of incomplete closure on infants.

One last aspect of the project I’m working through is the interactive graphic on the landing page.  Ideally it will be a juvenile skeleton to where when the mouse hovers over a specific bone or element, such as the skull, the skull will change colors and clicking on it will take you to a new page specifically focusing on aging methods of the bones of the cranium and mandible.  I have been trying to accomplish this with raphael.js which allows you to draw vector graphics on webpages.  Since I have had a slower-than-expected start to the semester, I’m a little behind in my execution of being able to do this and it is still weighing me down.  I know that once I am able to map out a single bone, the rest of the skeleton should be relatively pain-free (although this might take a while with all the bones in the body!)

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