Archive for December, 2012


Happy New Year with Mari Lwyd

December 31, 2012

Today we were introduced to something that is both delightfully skull-ish and appropriately new year-ish.  What you ask?  Well if you had read the title of the post you would already know… but in case you didnt it’s Mari Lwyd.

Mari Lwyd, or the Grey mare, is a Welsh tradition and although we aren’t 100% sure what it entails we imagine it as an olde school rap battle of sorts where visitors would knock on the door of houses and challenge the people inside to a singing contest with the winner taking all (all being entry into the house and hopefully some good food and booze).  The coolest part of the story however, is that the people would be accompanied by a horses skull, with bottletops or similar as eyes and a veil-like white cloth to cover the guy who drew the short straw and was carrying around the head on the stick.


If you have a close look at the old girl above, in addition to some pretty mean streamers and emerald eyes to die for, you can see the infraorbital foramen (above the teeth on the side) and the mental foramen (below the teeth at the front).  We haven’t seen any good ones for a while so in case you had forgotten the foramen are simply holes in the skull for blood vessels and nerves to travel through.

If you are lucky enough to receive a visit from Mari Lwyd tonight please send us pics! And from V and E at Craniophiles, we hope you have very fun and safe new years celebrations and we look forward to being craniophillic with you in 2013!


How to put a name to a (skull) face Part 3- DNA

December 27, 2012

We have looked at teeth, mastoid processes and supraorbital ridges which are all good ways to help identification of remains… but with our current state of knowledge, arguably the most effective technique we have is DNA.

Deoxyribonucleic Acid or DNA is the stuff that makes you you.  In essence it is like an molcular instruction manual, telling your cells what to do, when to do it and how to do it.  What makes DNA great for identification purposes is that it is slightly different in every individual (except those pesky twins!), but has similarities that are carried through families.

DNA identification is not totally fool proof and there are a few things that might mean that it is not possible in some cases.  For instance, you need something to compare it to.  Even if a forensic scientist can get DNA from an unidentified skull, if there is no family member to compare it to then it might not help in the identification process.  Luckily for the scientists looking for our old buddy Ned, they did have access to the DNA of some of his living distant relatives.

This is how they knew that this handsomely headless chap below was indeed Ned Kelly.

Picture credit: Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine

It is also how they were able to find out that the skull handed in 2009 by a Mr. Baxter was not.  Is the skull in the posession of the New Zealand witch the real deal?  That remains to be seen….

But now that we have come full circle back to Ned Kelly this will be the last of the skull identification posts for a while.  If you really liked them or there was a topic you were hanging out for that we missed let us know, we are happy to revisit the concept!