Skeletal analysis (osteoarchaeology)
Archaeological excavations often uncover human remains such as unburnt bones and skeletal remains from cremations. NIKU's osteoarchaeologists analyse these to learn more about human history. We also help the authorities by determining whether bones are human or animal, and by dating such finds.
Skeletal remains are the closest we can get to the people of the past. Their lives and living conditions will have left their mark on their skeletons. Therefore, the physical remains of our ancestors are particularly important archaeological and cultural historical source materials. Knowledge about our ancestors and earlier societies is acquired through a close collaboration between archaeologists and osteoarchaeologists.
Skeletal and other funerary finds are part of our cultural heritage. According to the Cultural Heritage Act, all archaeological finds, including finds of human remains, that pre-date the Reformation (1537) are automatically protected. Skeletal finds from earlier periods are not subject to the same strict legal protection, but Norway has ratified the Valletta Convention, which means that a commitment has been made to the international community that it will properly protect and administer its cultural heritage, regardless of its age.
NIKU believes skeletal and burial finds must be treated ethically through a multidisciplinary approach that takes account of the research potential inherent in the material as well as the law. The archaeological context is therefore one of the main elements in the analysis of human remains.
NIKU carries out macroscopic investigations that provide information about the number of individuals, gender, age, changes due to illness, and inherited traits. We work with institutes that carry out dating analyses, physical and chemical examinations of trace elements and isotopes, aDNA examinations, and determine to which species animal bones belong. The results of the osteoarchaeological investigations are provided in a comprehensive analysis report.
More information about this topic can be obtained from NIKU's osteoarchaeologists