Report On Skeletal Material Recovered From Golabai

Dr. S. K. Ghoshmaulik
Dr. P. K. Das

A post-cranial skeleton of single individual was obtained (by the Archaeological Survey of India) from a pit in a village Golabal, in Puri district. The remains were brought to the laboratory of A.S.I., Bhubaneswar, in a fragile condition, but kept in tact. The whole skeleton (minus cranio-facial) was embedded in a clay matrix. The exposure of the skeleton was made by its discoverer, Shri B.K. Sinha, who carefully removed the covering soil, reinforced the brittle bones by applying solution of polyvinyl acetate, but did not totally separate the bones from the clay bed. Thus the total skeletal remains, now is lying on a clay bed (original), and fixed to it. This condition, does not allow proper measurements’ as per osteornetric principles. In view of the delicacy of the materials (and as as not permitted), no attempt was made to separate the bones from the eternal bed (soil) and examine them. The observations and measurements recorded here are the result of examination of the skeletal materials as could be done on fixed materials.The skeleton lies on supine i.e. on its back, and only ventral surface is available for observation. ’


  1. There is no trace of cranio-facial skeleton. The head portion appears to be severed from the first vertebra.

  2. The cervical vertebra one or atlas is smashed. All other vertebrae present (17 in total).

  3. Two scapulae are embedded in clay under the ‘other pectoral bones and cannot be examined.

  4. Dorsal aspect of the vertebrae embedded in clay.

  5. The ribs became loose, displaced and embedded. A total of 8 ribs of both sides are present, overlapping one another, out of which 5 could be measured to some extent.

  6. Only left humerus distal part is present. Right humerus is lost.

  7. Broken portions of two radii are available. Upper portions are not available. Left radius distal part is present.

  8. Two ulnae are broken and some parts missing. Head is broken and separated, the missing parts of both the ulnae are not equal or of same portion.

  9. The synsacrum present but totally fixed to the clay bed.

  10. The innominates, separated, lying fixed on clay, overlapping each other partially and partly covered by radius-ulna bones.

  11. Both the femora are broken to great extent. The head, neck and some portions are remaining.

Analysis of Data

The post cranial skeleton of the individual, which appears to be of a minor child of below 10 years of age, retains the above mentioned bones. In absence of the skull and wrist bones, the age at death, remains undecided. But the immature bones, suggest tender age. Moreover, the fragile nature of the bones, their implantation on the clay bed and non allowance of their removal, restricted the measurements. Whatever measurements could be taken are presented in tables below. All the measurements were taken following the standard prescriptions of Martin and Saller (1957). Comas (1949) and Ashley Montagu (1960) advocated the same method of measurements and Krogman (1968) advised for these techniques on retrieved bone materials, used for the forensic purposes.

Table 1: Metrical features of clavicle
Measurement   Right clavicle   Left clavicle
1.Length Broken into two parts Sternal end part     2.9cm Sternal end missing
    Acromial end part  3.0cm Remaining part 5.3
  Total   5.9cm  
2.Breadth at (a) acromial end   l.5 cm  
  (b) middle shaft   0.9 cm  
  (c) sternal end   missing missing
3.Robusticity index     15  

The total length cannot be established accurately as the sternal ends on both sides are not available, nor the two broken parts could be taken together as they have fallen separated and now fixed. S0, by taking the two separate measurements together, the total available length is taken as 5.9cm, on right side and 5.3 cm. on left. Robusticity index is very low.

Table 2: Vertebrae (Cranio-caudal length of corpus)
No. of vertebra    Height of the body(in cm) Total length
Cervical: 1 (smashed)   0.6  
  2 0.8  
  3 0.7 3.6 cm
  4 0.5  
  5 0.5  
  6 0.5  
  7 1.3  
  8 1.7  
  9 1.3  
  10 1.3  
  11 1.3  
  12 1.2  
  13 1.1  
  14 1.0  
  15 1.1  
  16 1.0 Length vertebral column                    =39.5cm
Sacrum-coccygeal Length 7.5  


The vertebral column is intact but embedded in the soil and partly covered by ribs, loose innominates. Only the height of the body of each vertebra (cranio-caudal) could be measured. The first vertebra or atlas found to be smashed. The nature of the broken bones points towards death due to injury, most probably with any weapon. The broken pieces are still embedded in the soil.

The total length of vertebral column is estimated to be 39.5 cm. There are 17 vertebrae in total.
A total of 8 ribs on both sides were obtained.

Table 3: Measurements of Ribs.
(counting down)
Right (cm)

Left (cm)
1st   Breadth  0.9 0.9
   thickness   - 0.5
2nd            Breadth 0.8  -
3rd   Breadth 0.9  1.0
4th      Breadth  0.9 0.9
5th  Breadth  0.9 -
   thickness    0.5 0.5

3 ribs could not be measured. The sternum is missing.  of the ribs could only be measured. The positions are fixed and these cannot be separated for better measurements. As the sterum is missing, the bones have lost cohesion. These are brittle and lie fixed on the soil matrix. From the above-mentioned measurements, it appears that all the five ribs show uniformity in breadth and thickness.

Table 4: Measurements on Humerus
  Measurement     Left Humerus (in cm)
1 .Total length (available) (head-condyle)    18.8
2 From broken portion on head-condylarlubcrcle     17.5
3 Breadth at neck (max.) 2.1
4 Bread at condyle (max)    3.3
5 Breadth at middle of shaft     0.9
6 Minimum breadth at supra condyle  1.5
7 Caliberindex        48
  Estimated Stature based on Humerus Length 122.92 

Estimated Stature based on Humerus Length = 122.92 cm.

Only one humerus (left) is available. There is some breakage on the humeral head, yet this bone is the least damaged bone in the whole skeleton. The head is partially broken. The entire length taken from the available top of broken head is 18.8 cm. and from the broken portion to the condyle is 17.5 cm. Thus it appears that 1.3 cm. of the head part is lost due to damage. Maximum breadth at the humeral neck region is 2.1 cm. (later-
ally) as anteroposterior diameter could not be measured. Lateral breadth at the middle of the shaft is 0.9 cm.,and minimum breadth at supra-condyle is 1.5 cm. The bi-condylar breadth could not be taken. The humerus is thin as appears from the caliber index (table 5).
The radius and ulna have not escaped damage on both the sides. On both sides some remnants are available. Upper portion of left radius is missing and so also a portion of right radius. The bones are so firmly attached to the soil bed, that some limited measurements were possible, without disturbing the materials. These are presented in the following table [5]. The damages are not uniform on two long bones of both sides.

Table 6: Measurements on Radius and Ulna
Measurement Right (in cm)  Left (in cm)
Total length of Ulna
(available portion)   
10.9 15.3
 Height of Olecraron - 1.5
Girth (middle) of Ulna 2.6 3.2
Head (broken) of Ulna Radius: - 4.2
Length (available part)   12.5 5.9
Girth (mid shaft)   2.6 -

The total length of ulna represents the length of available portion. 10.9 cm. of the right ulna and 15.3 cm. of left ulna exist. Broken head portion of left ulna head is 4.2 cm. The olecranon cap is poorly developed and only available on left ulna.

Most part of left radius is lost; leaving only 5.9 cm., while 12.5 cm. of right radius is available. Girth of only right radius could be taken.

The pelvis bones are dismantled, but present. The innominates and the sacrum are displaced and embedded overlapping each other partially.

Table 6: Measurements on Pelvis
  Measurement   Right (in cm)  Left (in cm)
1  Breadth of ilium 5.8 6.6
2 Height of ilium  (acetabulum to iliac crest) 9.6 8.5
3 Thickness of iliac crest  - 0.6
4 Length of pubis  3.8 3.8
5 Length of Obturator  foramen   2.4  
6 . Breadth of Obturator  foramen  1.1 1.3
7  Total width of pelvis (as obtained in flat state) 17.9  


The iliac blade differs on both sides in width, so also the iliac crest height from acetabulum. The conspicuous bi-lateral breadth is not satisfactory, as it was difficult to record measurements due to interference of overlying radio-ulna bones, and slight tilting nature of the right innominate Thickness of iliac crest (0.6 cm) could be measured on left side only. The obturator foramen are nearly equal on both sides, and in breadth, they slightly differ.
The flat condition of the two innominates measure 17.9 cm. from one end to the other. Sacrum could not be measured.
Femur: Both the femora are damaged. Left femur has little remnant. Head, neck and portion of shaft are available.

Table 7: Measurements on Femur
  Measurement  Right (in cm.)    Left (in cm.)
1 Length (from head to broken part of shaft)  10.4 12.4
2  Head to great trochanter   5.4 5.6
3 Trochanter to broken end  7.0 -
4 Width at trochanter 2.5 -
5 Neck length           0.7 -
6 . Breadth of shaft  1.9 -
7 Girth of shaft    5.6 5.6

 The above measurements, majority on the right femur do not yield any satisfactory clue as to the sex, age or height of the individual. But the slender composition of the femur, short neck, small head with less developed trochanter, suggest tender composition of the individual.
Some phalangeal bones are present in loose condition, fixed to the soil and these could not be measured.

The skeletal remains of the young individual, was found from a burial (as reported) and in the nearby region, plenty of potsherds and other were obtained. The bones are not fossilized, but very brittle. Many parts.“ the bones have been damaged. There is no trace of the skull or any remains of the skull. Even teeth, which are most resistant to decay, are not found. Also, the first cervical vertebra is smashed. These suggest that the individual was beheaded before burial and the head was not placed into the grave.

Although it is difficult to determine sex from such scanty measurements, especially when the skull is absent and pelvis not properly measurable, it appears from the shape of the innominates and their characters that the skeleton is of a female of very tender age.

More detail examination is necessary, after freeing the bones from its clay bed and reconstructing the lost parts. That will reveal many information about the hoary past.


Source: Archaeology of Orissa, Ed.K.K.Basa and P.Mohanty, (2000), Delhi, Pratibha Prakashan, pp.349-355.