"Bones are Forever,

Physical anthropology is a fascinating field. Examining the bones of the dead may sound somewhat strange (even yucky) to some people, but it can uncover many mysteries and lost stories.
My father taught me some of it, and I took later two college courses, but my career interests ranged far away: first in physics and x-ray crstallography (to study where the atome are in a molecule) and then computer programming (to make machines do things on command).

Nevertheless, I still enjoy physical anthropology very much, so it's not surprising that one of my favorite authors is Kathy Reichs. She solves murders by examining at bones, sometimes exhumed from the ground (and sometimes hundreds of years old).

I highly recommend books of Kathy Reichs.
The one I'm just finishing takes place in Yellowknife and Great Slave Lake, in NWT and Nunavut.
The title is: "Bones are Forever",

A Cranial Conundrum

One of the most interesting anthropological specimens from the Niobrara digs was a human skull, found whole, which would have produced very different results if it only one half of it had been found.


Examining the right half of the skull only, physical anthropologists would place the age at death as approximately 60 years old. Examining the left half of the skull only, physical anthropologists would place the age at death as approximately half of that: about 27 years old.

When a baby is born, the cranium is in five separate pieces, with a large hole in the center (called the "Fontanella" and making a soft spot at the top where the brain is vulnerable). As the person grows, and the skull expands a bit, the fontanella closes and the separate pieces knit together forming "sutures".

  • Archeologists measure how much the sutures have closed, to determine age.
  • However, it is possible for a very hard blow to the head to re-open these sutures, especially when the victim is less than 30 years old.
In the bone of left forehead was a small notch, showing that the victim had received a near-fatal blow that cut into the bone. The apparent age of the left side was about 27, but the right side still looked 60, so the victim survived for many years.

The jawbone was also interesting. Most of it was normal bone color (orangy-brown), but the bottom of the jaw was green. This was undoubtedly from a copper jaw covering, indicating that this was a person of very high station -- possibly a chief.