As of February 2016, after 416 posts, and over six and a half years of blogging, I'm taking a break.
I've explained why here. There's plenty of past posts to read, though - hope you enjoy them !
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Puzzles from my inbox


In the six years that I've been blogging about bones I must have received thousands of emails,  some of which are from people who have enjoyed my book , some asking me how to clean bones but the most common question I get is "can you me identify this bone ?"

Most of the stuff is pretty easy, like common deer or sheep skulls, but others are more difficult, where I have to check with other experts. Twitter is brilliant for this, and that's where I usually ask, and even if people don't know, they'll know someone who does. Here are some of the most interesting ones I have had recently.

The Arizona skeleton

My name is Cade. I am 5 years old and live in Arizona in the USA. My Grandfather was hiking next to a lake but in the desert. He found this skeleton but no skull. We are trying to figure out if it is all one animal and what it could possibly be. We read your book and thought that you might be able to help figure out what it is. Can you please look at these photos and see what you think and then email me back your answer?

On this one, I recognised what some of the bones were (like vertebrae) but I did not know what the other bones were from.  Luckily Cade had included some of the most important information, like what country they are in, and roughly where the bones were found.

I asked on Twitter and Paolo ( a museum curator at the Horniman museum in London, and the scientific expert on my book) thought it could be from a catfish - an animal which, like most fish, I know almost nothing about. Thanks Paolo - and to Ben Garrod and Christian Baars who helped as well !

The Lighthouse Point bone

Hello Jake. My name is Demian.  I found this bone in Spring of 2010 on the beach at Lighthouse Point, in Pompano Beach, Florida. I haven't tried to identify it yet because i don't believe its human. thank you, Demian.

Unlike the first one, I couldn't even begin to work out it was from, except it was symmetrical, which usually means it is from the middle of the animal, since animals are normally left-to-right symmetrical. It looked vaguely like part of a pelvis, or possibly from a plate of the skull, although the far edge looked smooth and so was probably an opening of some sort.

Apart from that,I was clueless. So, I asked on Twitter and someone recognised it:

The carapace is the turtles shell. I think the curve at the top is where the neck comes out.

Far from the sea.

We found this bone and can't figure out what it is. My daughter found it on a creek bed at a park where they have horses, llamas, and goats. I've looked at pictures of those animals' skeletons and they don't look like this. It almost looks human, but there are some differences. Do you have any idea what this could be? Thank you very much! Geena

I could recognise the type of bone straight away - it was a scapula, and I'd written a blog post comparing scapulas before.

I also knew I'd seen it somewhere before. The shape of scapulas show how an animal uses its front limbs, which is why sheep, deer and cows all have similar shaped (V-shaped) scapulas. This one looked most like a seal, because the horizontal ridge was almost missing, which made me think of seals initially. But I checked and it didn't seem to be quite like a seal, so I thought of similar animals. I knew it wasn't a harbour porpoise, but when I looked up dolphin, it looked like a good match.

But there was one problem: it was found inland ! That's when I went to Twitter to double-check.

Emma Woodhouse and Melanie on Twitter narrowed it down a bit further to bottlenose dolphin, and Emma did some Google maps  detective work. as to how it got there:

Thanks Emma !

Like a fallow deer but not

 I have  question from you, what are these :)  They are about 20 centimetres across each one.  I look forward to your reply :) Regards, David

This was the biggest puzzle. Not only did I not recognise the bones at all, but they seemed only to articulate (connect) at one end, which is unusual for a bone.

They wre ealso obviously not like the only thing I knew that was that shape, as well, which was:

...a fallow deer antler (or possibly a reindeer or moose at a stretch) because they looked too thin, too flat, and antlers don't have that plate edge which these had.

I was stumped again, so turned to Twitter. It didn't take long for someone to spot what they were;

So thanks to Paolo, as well as Ben Garrod and Cath Cooper who spotted what it was. Oddly, it was something which I had seen before at the Bell Pettigrew Museum in St Andrews:

If you have a bone puzzle, then I'll always try and help. I'm at jakesbones@gmail.com, and remember to send a picture, something in the picture to show scale, and where you found it (country, and whether coast, inland).

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