Assessing the Taphonomic Alterations of 29 Human Anatomical Specimens Confiscated in Louisiana

Author(s): Ryan Seidemann; Christine Halling

Year: 2021


This is an abstract from the "SAA 2021: General Sessions" session, at the 86th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Anatomical specimens used for teaching frequently become available for sale online. In one Louisiana case, authorities confiscated 29 human anatomical specimens. These specimens are used to highlight the breadth of information that can be gathered from such isolated human remains. Anatomical specimens are easily identified by the techniques used to prepare them for teaching purposes, which can include calotte cutting, hooks, and springs to reattach the mandible. Postmortem alterations of these specimens result from frequent handling by students and teachers, increasing the likelihood of damage, loss of teeth, pen or pencil marks, or even the buildup of a patina on the surface. The specimens discussed here are all human skulls displaying subtle variations of preparation that appear indicative of different anatomical supply companies’ preparation techniques. These specimens represent individuals of all ages and ancestry, with evidence of pathological conditions and cultural modifications including labret wear, generalized porosity, and evidence of infectious disease processes. Anatomical specimens pose unique challenges with regard to postmortem damage that can make analysis more challenging, but may contain verifiable information and clues to the anatomical company that prepared the skull.

Cite this Record

Assessing the Taphonomic Alterations of 29 Human Anatomical Specimens Confiscated in Louisiana. Ryan Seidemann, Christine Halling. Presented at The 86th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology. 2021 ( tDAR id: 467427)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections


Spatial Coverage

min long: -168.574; min lat: 7.014 ; max long: -54.844; max lat: 74.683 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 32155