Aside from doing dog training in one of my classes (operant conditioning principles, basically), Forensic Anthropology is pretty much the most interesting thing happening for me as far as school goes right now.
Tonight we studied blunt force trauma.
In order to be able to easily learn what BFT looks like on bones, we smacked the crap out of cow femurs (my team used a hammer, one team used a combination hatchet/hammer/crowbar, and the third team used a baseball bat), then scraped the remaining flesh off of them and analyzed them.
The thought of bones breaking really squicks me out. Especially those having to do with the base of the skull (like a ring fracture). The worst thing for me, though, is disarticulated joints and torn tendons. I’m lightheaded just thinking about it, and the professor spent 10 minutes tonight telling a story of how her brother passed out in a hospital, resulting in a ring fracture, and I seriously almost vomited.
A ring fracture, for those who don’t know, is when the foramen magnum (hole in base of skull for spinal cord/brain stem connection) becomes separated from the rest of the skull, either by the skull being pushed down very hard, or being pulled very hard. ICK ICK ICK.
Anyway, my partner and I were the last ones to beat the crap out of our beef leg, so I laid it on the storm drain cover (we did this outside to prevent injury and/or damage to the science building), held the hammer in both hands, and struck a glancing blow. Fail. I tried again. The second strike split the fucker in half. Awesome.
So we brought our femurs inside, and were given the femurs of one of the other teams, in order to analyze the points of impact and the fracture patterns to ascertain which trauma type we got. Naturally, my partner and I received the bone without a lot of real breakage – just a lot of cracks, and a couple of depression (dents in the bone). In order to record the location of the cracks, we had to scrape off leftover muscle, fat, tendons, and membrane.
Seeing as how I couldn’t even help dissect a fetal pig two years ago, I was decidedly unenthusiastic about that portion.
Also, there’s that whole squick factor that comes with handling nearly-fresh body parts.
It turns out that as long as I’m wearing gloves, it’s not a big deal. Clearly, a human body recovered after a crime would be a lot more disgusting, but I’m actually really relieved to know that I can manage a simple scraping procedure without getting so grossed out as to have to leave.
Gross-out moment of the night: the ends of the beef femurs were sawed off, so there was a lot of weirdly-shaped fleshy stuff hanging around toward the ends of the pieces we were working with. Of that stuff, quite a few were tendon ends. I adjusted my grip on the bone so that I could keep scraping, and my finger squeezed a length of tendon out through a hole in the meat toward the end. It was like watching a bone give birth to a really big flatworm. THEN I had to tear it off with my hands, because the scalpel and surgical scissors weren’t sharp enough. EWWwww…
In other news, there’s a chick in the class who’s basically a first-rate bitch, and I’m going to take great pleasure in telling her where she can stick her attitude during the last class session. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be graduating in three weeks.