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The Maxwell Museum’s Laboratory of Human Osteology specializes in numerous facets of biological anthropology. The Lab serves as a repository for human remains, which includes prehistoric, historic documented, and forensic remains. The Lab also curates a collection of non-human primates, and holds the Economides orthodontic collections.
As part of our collaboration with the Office of the Medical Investigator, the Laboratory of Human Osteology houses the unsolved forensic cases for the State of New Mexico. The size of the collection fluctuates as new cases are added and others are identified. These skeletal remains are available for research while housed in the laboratory, but are generally associated with little to no known information.
Most of the prehistoric Native American skeletal remains in the collection originated in New Mexico, and were collected through field school or other academic excavations. Collections include human remains from the Mimbres region, Tijeras Pueblo, Pottery Mound, and many other archaeological sites. Nearly all of the collection dates to the late Pueblo period.
If you interested in conducting research, please see policies on collections use and contact the Curator of Human Osteology.

Highlighted Collections

Documented Skeletal Collection

Established in 1984, the Maxwell Museum’s Documented Skeletal Collection has grown to include 308 individuals (as of 2018), including males and females, all ages, and many population groups. The skeletal remains are obtained through body donation, either by the individual before death or by the family of a deceased loved one. Information on the sex, age, population affinity, and cause of death is available for the majority of these individuals.

Since 1995, prospective donors or their families have been asked to provide health and occupational data. This information allows researchers to examine the skeletal manifestations of particular diseases including degenerative joint disease, lymphoma, and osteoporosis, as well as the reaction of bone to repetitive motions and trauma. Recent research has focused on understanding the effects of muscle use on the human skeleton and on how various cancers metastasize to bone.

If you are interested in donating your body to the Maxwell Museum’s Documented Skeletal Collection, you can find information about the process, frequently asked questions, and legal forms here (

Orthodontic Collection

The Maxwell Museum of Anthropology curates the James K. Economides Orthodontic Case file, which includes orthodontic records from 6,000 individuals. Records include pre- and post-treatment dental models, x-rays, intra-oral and full-face photographs. Individuals in the collection represent the diversity of Central New Mexico from 1972-1999. This collection provides information about population relationships, oral health, orthodontic treatment success, dental and skeletal development, health disparities, and many other lines of research.
The de-identified x-rays and internal photographs are available on a searchable website, De-identified models can be accessed using the normal research request method for the museum. Any requests for access to the portions of the collection that are not de-identified must have approval from UNM’s Institutional Review Board.
The collection has already been used in research on the forensic estimation of ancestry using dental morphology and metrics, concepts of race and ethnicity, sub-adult age-at-death, and standardization of terms for cranial measurements.