The Six Skulls of Osteopetrosis

Osteopetrosis - a hereditary disorder in which old bone cells are not recycled, resulting in increased density or thickness and an alteration in shape of the bone. The bone is thus weaker, due to decreased blood cell production in the marrow.

Osteopetrosis can range from mild to severe with the possibility of being life threatening.

There is no cure.

During an Ohio excavation in Fall of 2014, an unmarked mass grave was discovered in which all of the interred skeletal remains were shown to have severe bone abnormalities and advanced decay. The specimens were delivered to a local university's archeology lab for further study and analysis. Below are the results from that study:

Keyes Archeology Department
October 18, 2014:
An unmarked mass grave was discovered at the Highbury excavation site in Akron, Ohio. Six skulls, all showing varying degrees of deformity and advanced decay, were removed and brought to the Keyes Archeology Laboratory for further analysis. Initial reviews reveal that each specimen showed increased thickness and alteration of the cranium. Three of the skulls also displayed advanced decay.

Photo 1-1: Specimen collection, taken at the Highbury excavation site. 10-18-14

Specimens were photographed and documented into the laboratory catalog system. X-ray, 3D scan and advanced bone density testing revealed that all specimens displayed the same symptoms of the hereditary disorder, Osteopetrosis. The following documents the individual specimens with detailed analysis:

Cat. 257.01: Excessive bone density and deformation around the left temporal zone.
Calcified growths also present on right cranial region. 10-18-14

Cat. 257.02: Complete decay of facial and oral region with porous bone fragmentation in nasal area.
Calcified growths also present on rear cranial region. 10-18-14

Cat. 257.03: Advanced decay of rear cranial region with bone deformity and thickness in nasal area.
Textured abrasion on front left cranial region. 10-18-14

Cat. 257.04: Advanced decay of right occular region with bone deformity and thickness in brow and rear cranial area.
Textured abrasion on central and right rear cranial regions. 10-18-14

Cat. 257.05: Advanced bone deformity and thickness throughout occular, nasal and temporal areas.
Textured abrasions throughout rear cranial region. 10-18-14

Cat. 257.06: Complete decay of rear cranial area. Textured abrasions throughout front cranial region.
Minor bone deformity and thickness in nasal region. 10-18-14

Final results and full documentation will be cataloged with the Keyes Archeology Department and all files will be delivered to Blacke Genetics Department Laboratory for further study.

-Dr. Thornton Whateley
 Keyes Archeology Laboratory


The cast foam skulls above are from a fun little side project that I have been working on throughout the summer and into the fall. It involved a lot of trial and error, adjusting the process as each skull was completed. Here, after quite a few adjustments, is what I did to create them.

I started with a cheap plastic skull. I picked up the black skull below at Pat Catans for $3. Whatever skull you decide to go with, be sure that is is hollow on the inside. I took the skull and cut it into two pieces - front and back:

I then coated the inside of both pieces with Vaseline. It's important to coat everything, including the recessed areas around the face, as this will let the shell release after it has dried. Don't be afraid to really slather it all around:

Once you have both halves coated, it's time to fit the pieces back together with duct tape. Be sure to use plenty of tape, including along the seam as well as some from front to back, as you want to make sure this form will hold together as the foam inside of it expands:

VERY IMPORTANT: when cutting the skull into two halves, be sure to cut a notch opening at the bottom of the skull so that you have a place to fill it with the foam. Also be sure to leave the hole open when taping the form together:


Once the form is together, the next step is to fill it with Great Stuff expanding foam (please wear rubber gloves because getting Great Stuff on your skin just plain sucks - even though I'm not wearing them in the photo below, I did put them on before I started spraying). I usually fill it about 3/4 of the way full, as the foam will continue to expand and fill the rest of the skull:

You'll know it's working when the foam continues to expand, eventually flowing out of the hole. I had to actually wipe some of that foam away, as it continued to expand, flowing down the side of the skull:

And now comes the hard part - waiting. And waiting. And waiting. After various times, I found that TWO WEEKS or longer is needed for all of the foam to expand, settle, dry and harden. Don't forget that not much air is getting into the skull, so it will take a really long time for it to dry. I have also experimented with placing the skull in different positions while drying so that the foam can settle in all the areas. Once the skull is finally dry, remove the tape and gently pull both pieces of the form from your new foam cast skull:

When the skull was finished and dry (you'll have to wipe the excess Vaseline from the foam skull), you'll be ready for detailing. I used wood stain and painted the entire skull, wiping the stain off from the raised areas of the skull immediately. This took another couple of days before it was dry to the touch, but turned out great.

And please be aware that is by no means a fail-safe method. It's a very loose process with many variables. I ended up getting a second skull so that I could rotate between the two each week (filling one up while the other one dries and then pulling the first one while the second one dries). And, even after two weeks of drying, I found that a few of the skulls hadn't fully dried or had settled and left open areas, usually in the rear of the head. You WILL NOT get a perfect skull every time (at least I didn't), so proceed only if you're okay knowing that. These skulls will be placed on a shelf in my yard haunt, so perfection wasn't needed. Enjoy!!


Mantan Calaveras said...

Think I'm gonna puke!

Scrapes said...

Very intriguing discovery, Highbury...particularly case 257.05. To Dr. Whateley's benefit, I recommend he has these findings sent over to an associate of mine, Gerald DeGroot. He's preparing papers on a bone density study involving meteorological effects on closed environments, and will be presenting to colleagues at the University of Michigan in December.



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