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Human osteology is the study of human bones. As an interdisciplinary field, it incorporates elements from anthropology, anatomy and archaeology. When the field is broadened to include non-human subjects, it is simply called osteology.
Scientists involved in the study of osteology will engage in a systematic analysis to evaluate a bone or group of bones. The scientist will inventory the bones and identify their placement within the human skeleton. If teeth are present, a dental inventory will also be taken.
Human osteology can yield considerable information about the individual just by studying bones. For example, the age of the bones can be determined by studying the ribs and dental eruption. The individual's height can be estimated. Facial features can also be determined by studying the skull. A person's ethnicity and heritage can also be determined according to particular bone characteristics. The individual's health condition may also be identified through their bones. For example, a person suffering from malnutrition can be identified by the presence of brittle bones. A genetic disease may also be evident within the skeleton.
Human osteology can also yield information about a society. Migration patterns and food patterns can be identified by studying the skeleton. For this reason, forensic scientists, archaeologists and anthropologists all find human osteology a useful discipline.