Secrets of early Aberdonians to be revealed by city skeletons

Aberdeen's collection of more than 1,000 human skeletons is set to reveal fascinating new detail about the city and its people over hundreds of years.

Wednesday, 14th November 2018, 6:20 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th November 2018, 6:24 pm
Dr Rebecca Crozier will lead students through the analysis of the skeletons at Aberdeen University. PIC: Contributed.
Dr Rebecca Crozier will lead students through the analysis of the skeletons at Aberdeen University. PIC: Contributed.

Students on a new course at Aberdeen University will have the collection of bones - one of the largest of its kind in Europe - at its disposal.

Dating from the Neolithic period to the Middle Ages, the bones will be used to investigate the health, died and lifestyle of early Aberdonians as well as well as migration patterns and causes of death.

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Bones are also held from other burghs in Scotland, allowing researchers to compare profiles from Aberdeen with those across the country.

Together, the skeletons will act as a “diary” of the city’s lives, said Dr Rebecca Crozier, who leads the new MSc in Osteoarchaeology.

Dr Crozier said: “Human skeletons are the most tangible way of engaging with the long and rich story of our human past; providing an unparalleled insight into the lives of past people.

“Our students will learn how to unlock the wealth of information human skeletons can contain – from the techniques used in identification of human skeletal remains such as age-at-death, biological sex and height, to identifying and interpreting pathological lesions which can tell us about ancient health and disease and approaching more complex collections including those which have been cremated or burned.

“Human osteoarchaeology is a rapidly advancing discipline, with new techniques providing information on not only what people ate, but also migration patterns and familial relationships.

“The scale of the collection in Aberdeen, and the fact that many of the skeletons come from the surrounding region, will allow the students to gain a real insight into what life was like here over the centuries.”

The skeletons are held at the university’s Museum Collections Centre.

A modern laboratory has been created for students in the former museum gallery in the university’s Marischal College.