Graveyard Shift Human Bones Or Animal Bones? Here's How You Can Tell The Difference  

Jodi Smith
12 items

If you ever stumble upon bones - and you're not an anthropologist, a veterinarian, or an archaeologist - it may be difficult to know if you're looking at an animal skeleton or human remains.

While certain bones, such as bird bones, are easier to identify, some animal skeletons resemble those of humans. Scientists use animal bones as stand-ins for human bones in experiments. Fortunately, there are many ways to determine whether your yard is a crime scene, an archaeological jackpot, or the site of an animal graveyard.

Please note you should always report any questionable bones to the police to rule out the possibility of human remains.

Animals Don't Really Have ... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Human Bones Or Animal Bones? Here's How You Can Tell The Difference
Photo: Tiia Monto/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Animals Don't Really Have Chins


You can rule out many skulls as human, based on their elongated shape, the size, or the placement of the eye sockets. Another clue to a skull's origin is the presence or absence of a chin. The chin "is not seen in any other hominid species."

One theory speculates we need a chin to help us chew our food, but researchers are divided on whether that's true. Another idea is the chin assists in speech, though there is no solid evidence of this, either. Chins may have evolved by sexual selection. However, both men and women possess the trait.

Pigs Have Leg Bones Similar To... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Human Bones Or Animal Bones? Here's How You Can Tell The Difference
Photo:  Travis/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

Pigs Have Leg Bones Similar To People's


Pig bones are commonly used in experiments as stand-ins for human knee and leg bones. However, size differentiates human and swine knees. For instance, pig femurs are shorter than human femurs, but larger in circumference.

Professionals can distinguish a pig leg bone from that of a human by measuring it, checking its density, and comparing it to a known sample. The mineral content in pig bones is much higher than in humans bones, which a trained professional can test and identify.

Teeth Can Offer Clues To Diet ... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Human Bones Or Animal Bones? Here's How You Can Tell The Difference
Photo:  Drew Mackie/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Teeth Can Offer Clues To Diet And Species


The teeth of any species provide clues to the diet, health, and life of the owner. Human incisors are larger than those of other mammals, except horses. Human canine teeth are smaller than those in most other animals. An intact jawbone should have spots for 32 teeth if it is human.

There Are Key Differences Betw... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Human Bones Or Animal Bones? Here's How You Can Tell The Difference
Photo: Welcome Images/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 4.0

There Are Key Differences Between Human And Primate Bones


Although humans and primates are closely related, there are many differences between the skeletal structures of the two that can help with identification. Primates have longer forearms that allow them to walk on all of their limbs. Monkeys have narrow hips and a flatter pelvis, while humans have wide hips and a curved pelvis. Human rib cages are smaller than primates, and the spine is curved. A human foot will have an arch, whereas animal feet are flat.