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1 Introduction

Recording the presence of individual bones and bone fragments is the most common first step in studying human skeletons in both archaeological and forensic contexts. The importance of recording the state of preservation of skeletal remains cannot be overstated, since preservation influences our ability to make inferences about demography, pathology, population affinities, or mortuary rituals associated with the dead. Accordingly, if our ultimate goal is to compare different archaeological groups, it is crucial to understand to what extent our observations are biased by the state of skeletal preservation.

This article will begin with a brief discussion of different aspects of skeletal preservation, specific ways in which it affects our ability to study paleodemography, palaeopathology and mortuary analysis. The forms that are currently available in physical anthropology and archaeology manuals are critiqued. Based on this and following an informal survey of my colleagues from CAPA [1], three new 'visual recording forms' were devised and are presented here: one for adult, subadult, and neonate skeletons respectively. As they are two-dimensional representations of a three-dimensional body, they are necessarily a compromise between accuracy and manipulability. (I use the term here to denote the ease of data entry, the ability to present data in a concise manner and the ability to edit entries should new data become available.) A brief discussion of the ways to enter information is followed by a description of the way in which these forms will be incorporated into a database program currently being devised by the author.

[1] Canadian Association for Physical Anthropology http://citd.scar.utoronto.ca/CAPA/. I am most grateful to my colleagues at CAPA for their prompt response to my questionnaire.

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