Skeletally speaking, that is.
According to anthropologists at North Carolina State University, who have been studying skulls of men and women in Spain and Portugal from centuries past, the craniofacial structure of women changed over the years to become more similar to those of their male counterparts. While changes were found for both men and women, the most pronounced and significant changes occurred in women since the 16th century.
This makes sense because when you consider the physical toll that childbearing has on women. The nutrients lost by women who gave birth and breastfed — and how little we knew about it — probably would account for their skeletal structures being significantly smaller then than they are now. Over those centuries, a lot of trial and error, and eventually science and medicine, would point women in the direction of properly taking care of their bodies before, during, and after childbirth. Researchers also cite changes in nutrition and environmental changes. But why was the study done in the first place?
“This has applications for characterizing older remains,” [NSCU anthropologist Ann] Ross said. “Applying 20th century standards to historical remains could be misleading, since sex differences can change over time — as we showed in this study.”
And if you’ve ever watched an episode of Bones, you know that the skull tells a lot of the story when identifying remains to solve a crime, including the gender. So, I hope this means that Dr. Brennan and the squints will take a field trip to Spain or Portugal and solve a 300-year-old murder!
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