“The world dies over and over again, but the skeleton always gets up and walks.” -Henry Miller
Human ivory: the everlasting element. The skin will fade with time but who we are will forever remain the same, for bone will outlast everything. Our face will never be lost with time for it’s there, etch forever in the osseous tissue. Centuries may pass but our bones won’t. And the bone readers will always reveal us.
The year was 1849 and a man called Parkman disappeared. A suspect without a body appeared. In the assay oven, a Harvard janitor suspicious of Dr. Webster–the last man to see Parkman—found burned bones and false teeth. Dr. Wyman, an anatomy professor, led a forensic team and found that it matched a person of Parkman’s size and height. The dentures were recognized by Parkman’s dentist. This was the first significant piece of history for the field of forensic anthropology.
On February 11, 1938 the Director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, wrote the Secretary of the Smithsonian, C. G. Abbot, requesting the assistant of Aleš Hrdli…ka, an anthropologist whose was described as the best in his field, to examine bones thought to be human remains. They were not of human origin but this began the Smithsonian-FBI collaboration in Forensic Anthropology that still exists today.
The modern era of forensic anthropology began just a year later when W. M. Krogman published his Guide to the Identification of Human Skeletal Material in the F.B.I. Law Enforcement Bulletin. Krogman also published the first book on forensic anthropology, The Human Skeleton in Forensic Medicine. This sparked interest and carried the field forward into the future of forensics.
The bone readers have grown and multiplied. They are there to find us, to recreate our faces, and to say our name aloud. Time may pass but we won’t.
- Civil War Sailors from USS Monitor Reconstructed (abcnews.go.com)
- 014 Dead Men Do Tell Tales: The Strange and Fascinating Cases of a Forensic Anthropologist (rodpfajardo.wordpress.com)
- Texas Vulture Study Upends Forensics (time.com)