Sunday, December 21, 2008

Have you seen a skeleton?

Just about everyone today knows pretty exactly what a human skeleton looks like, the shapes of all the bones, their physical arrangement, etc. But it occurred to me yesterday that as far as I can remember, I've never seen a real one. Certainly not in real life with my own eyes, not even a single human bone, that I can recall. Odds are somewhere along the way I've seen a real one depicted in a photograph or on TV, but I can't point with certainty at any particular moment that I saw one and knew it was a real one, not a mockup. For all I know, every skeleton I've ever seen might have some kind of Hollywood inaccuracy. I can think of a few pictures of particular bones that I've seen that I knew (as much as you can really be sure of any reliable source, at least) were real, but most of those are just skulls.

So I was thinking that there's this saturation where almost everyone in so-called "Western civilization" has seen countless images of skeletons, but by the same token, probably the majority of us (maybe a vast majority) have never seen a real one. What would it have been like in previous generations? I wonder if you go back far enough, if having seen real human bones, or even a real whole skeleton, might not have been a lot more common. Maybe there's a period in between a time when people often had seen the real thing, and when people had seen them on TV, where most people would not know what they looked like.


Greg said...

That's odd. I've seen probably 3 or 4 in my lifetime. We had one at my high school, and the others were in various museums. The one we had at my high school was cool, the way it was preserved, I used to always touch it. But then, who doesn't think touching skeletons is cool?

Hawthorn Thistleberry said...

Maybe it was just that my school district was on "austerity budget" my entire school career.