March 29, 2011

Ancient Riches, Modern Gambling

I was in Las Vegas over the weekend for my brother and newly-minted-sister-in-law's wedding. Although I did make a pilgrimage to Caesar's Palace, hanging with my favorite faux Prima Porta Augustus, I spent more time at the Mirage. Unlike Caesar's, Luxor, or Excalibur, the Mirage doesn't have a specific historical theme, so I was surprised at the sheer number and variety of historically-themed slot machines - and took pictures of all that I could find. In vague chronological order, we have:

Classical Athens (c. 4th century BC). The Greek-themed slot machines all deal with a godly lineage: Kronos, a Titan and the father of Zeus, king of the gods and father of Apollo, god of the sun. The Greek god of wealth was Pluto, so the connection with ancient riches here is unclear: Kronos poses with a temple that has been erected for him, but Zeus and Apollo are depicted mostly as powerful rather than wealthy.

Republican Rome and Ptolemaic Egypt (c. 1st century BC). In contrast to the god-themed slots, from the Roman era we get depictions of real people: Julius Caesar (I assume from the picture and the connection to Egypt) and Cleopatra, whose (green?) eyes are apparently the most recognizable part of her visage. Undoubtedly, Caesar and Cleopatra were wealthy, and they were the most powerful rulers of their day.
Mayan Civilization (c. 3rd century AD). With the Mesoamericans, the slot machine has no iconic picture to convey the "riches" (and connection with gambling), which has to be specifically spelled out. In another screen shot, though, the riches in question include gold masks, gold coins, alligators, pots, a skull, and the pyramid at Chichen Itza:

Medieval Europe (c. 13th century AD). Very curiously, there are two slots whose theme involves Medieval times: the infamous knight Sir Lancelot, and the majestic hall to which heroes in Scandinavian mythology go. This period in European history was not exactly known for its wealth - with widespread serfdom, most people lived in crushing poverty. My assumption is that Lancelot and Valhalla evoke a kind of romanticism, an idea that the Medieval past was full of chivalrous acts by gallant men.
Aztec Empire (c. 15th-16th centuries AD). Like the Mayan-themed slot above, the Aztec one also specifically notes the civilization's "fortune," illustrated by a gold-colored pyramid. It's especially important to note here that the pyramid represented on the slot machine is almost certainly from Chichen Itza and therefore Mayan. When I think of the Aztecs, I think of smallpox and the Florentine Codex, but since the Spanish wanted to conquer them, I assume there is a connection to wealth and riches there.
Imperial China (c. 18th century AD?). Finally, I could only find one slot machine with a theme of wealth in Asia. Unlike all of the above, which reference American civilizations, Greek gods, European literary figures, and Roman and Egyptian elite, this one seems to be quite generic. I couldn't find any reference to a specific Golden Emperor, but I'm placing it chronologically in the Qing Dynasty. I would have assumed that the wealth of the East was the stuff of legend, what with the recent history of antiquities hunting along the Silk Road and finds like the tomb of the first Qin emperor and his terracotta army.
One theme that I assume connects all of these slot machines together is wealth, riches, or fortune. The two New World civilization ones make that connection explicit, but the rest rely on the assumption of a shared Western knowledge of Graeco-Roman history and Medieval mythology. Were ancient civilizations wealthy, though? Not really. The total GDP (wheat equivalent) of Classical Athens, for example, was 200,000 tons; the Roman Empire at its height was 50,000,000 tons. That sounds impressive until you realize that the GDP of the U.S. in 2009 was 66,000,000,000 tons (Scheidel 2011). Then again, Rome had a $43.4 billion GDP (in equivalent 1990 international dollars) (Scheidel and Friesen 2009), which is about the same as the GDP of, say, New Zealand in 1990.

The connection between riches and the ancient world seems tenuous to me and is based on a fetishization of past cultures, which have been divorced from their sociocultural context and reduced to their material trappings. These so-called riches and fortunes are based on our collective Western notions of what constitutes art and what is valuable. I did not see, for example, slot machines with themes of Native American or African cultures, those we still tend to view as "traditional" and "primitive." The ancient world that has been chosen as representative of historic riches is one that is predominately male, white, and European - a description that also applies to today's wealth distribution.

The theme of gambling itself may be the connection instead of wealth. Gambling existed in every culture that is referenced in the slot machines pictured above: Egyptian, Chinese, Mesoamerican, Greco-Roman, and Medieval European cultures all have long histories of guessing or betting on an outcome with money or other objects. Then again, Native Americans have a long history of gambling as well and are not represented in Vegas slot machine themes - perhaps because the culture is still alive in a way that the others aren't?

I'm sure that the choice of slot machine themes is not undertaken lightly in Las Vegas. After all, the psychological manipulation that occurs in order to entice gamblers to continue gambling is the stuff of legend and of reality. All the casinos that I traipsed through over the weekend had a variety of slot machines with a variety of themes - from Green Acres to American Idol, from Alfred Hitchcock to The Little Mermaid, from Greek gods to inaccurate Aztec temples - each designed to make a connection with a patron via some sliver of pop culture and to take that patron's money. But it was the machines with ancient themes that struck me as the most disingenuous. In those cultures, gambling was most often a social experience, far different from our contemporary form, which is pathologized, isolating, and psychologically and economically damaging. The appropriation of ancient cultures by slot machine manufacturers and their use by casinos in Las Vegas is not particularly surprising, but the choice of cultures, iconography, and fonts was particularly interesting to me as an anthropologist who works in the ancient world.

March 20, 2011

Omnes viae Romam ducunt

This has been floating around the classical blogosphere this morning: Omnes Viae, the ancient world's equivalent of Google maps' "get directions" feature. The routes are based on the Peutinger Table, which has been studied in great depth by the esteemed Richard Talbert in the history department here at UNC. The site is in English, German, Dutch, and Greek (no Italian?) and is super fun to play with.

Let's say that Lars Porsena wanted to get from his native Clusium to wage war on Rome but wasn't sure exactly how to get there. Just type in Clvsio and Roma, and voila! - his route would look like this:

As someone who works on physical mobility, I've been geeking out on this site for the past half hour. My research hasn't taken me specifically into routes of movement yet, but I plan to explore that topic (and Omnes Viae) more in the future.

In the meantime, is there an intrepid game designer out there who wants to make me an Oregon Trail-like computer program out of this? "Gaius has died of malaria. Do you want to cremate or inhume him?" "You've come to the Tiber River. Do you want to ford it, pay a ferryman to take you across, or make a raft out of the corpses and detritus littered about?" Seriously, I'd play this. Endlessly.

Update (7/11/11) - RenĂ© Voorburg emailed me to say that there is now Google maps integration for Omnes Viae.  It's very neat to see the Peutinger map presented the way we're more familiar with: cardinal directions, areas of interest along the route, etc.

March 17, 2011

Bones - Season 6, Episode 16 (Review)

The Blackout in the Blizzard

Episode Summary

D.C. is blanketed by snow on the heels of an ice storm. A body is found near an I-295 overpass by the police, and the D.C. medical examiner sends the body to the Jeffersonian for identification. Brennan complains that she wasn't allowed to survey the scene, but Saroyan reminds her that the blizzard would have compromised the scene within minutes anyway. As the team starts studying the body, Brennan and Sweets help Booth salvage a row of seats from Veterans Stadium, which are being thrown out across the street from the cafe. Just after they have wrangled the seats into the elevator in Booth's apartment complex, the power goes out around the city, sending them into a blackout.

Death investigation waits for no one, so Hodgins identifies the victim as female and puts time of death around 12 days prior. Wendell looks at the pubic symphysis to estimate the woman was in her late 20s or early 30s. Hodgins finds a tick on the victim; however, it's one he's never seen before. He figures out that the tick is Hyalomma impeltatum, which is a vector for Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF), and the massive amount of blood found on the victim suggests she was infected. Wendell finds perimortem fractures to the C5 and C6 and concludes that the victim was strangled manually, face-to-face. Brennan suggests that, if the victim coughed up blood as she was being strangled, the killer could be infected with CCHF. Further, with a 10- to 12-day incubation period, the killer may very well be infectious himself. Suddenly, the Jeffersonian is also plunged into a blackout, just as they realize they need to find the killer to avert a possible CCHF epidemic in D.C.

Without power, the staff has to use all the resources at their disposal in the Jeffersonian. Saroyan pulls an old wall map and shows the geographical distribution of CCHF. Wendell reports that the discriminant function analysis of cranial measurements suggest that she was at least partly Native American in ancestry. Angela is needed to do a facial reconstruction so that they can send it to passport control, on the assumption that someone of Native American ancestry wouldn't have been born in the CCHF-prone areas but would have been a frequent traveller, possibly for work. There is no match through passport control or missing persons, though. Brennan wants to take a look inside the bones, but without electricity they have no xrays. She points Wendell to a back issue of Medical Physics Quarterly, in which an article on electrostatics and triboluminescence details how to produce the equivalent of xrays with scotch tape, photo paper, and a vacuum atmosphere. Wendell and Hodgins find foreign objects embedded in the left femur, which seem to be shrapnel, and the state of bone remodelling suggests the injury occurred around four years ago. The metal that they extract seems to be ridged, like a coin. Hodgins cross-references the coins with the exhibit in the Global Cultures section of the Jeffersonian and dissolves them in hydrochloric acid, finding out that they were Russian rubles. The combination of time since injury and Russian coins used as shrapnel in an IED points Booth to the conflict in Chechnya. Microfiche of the news from four years ago tell Angela that an American was injured in an IED blast in Chechnya: Ann Marie Weston, age 28, who worked for the Alliance for Human Dignity and was most recently in Albania. Wendell meanwhile defleshes the bones and finds perimortem injuries to the cortical surfaces of the right radius and ulna. Brennan suggests that he do a penetrant test by soaking the bones in dye in order to bring the injuries into better focus. There are regular scratches over the surface but also deep linear gouges, regularly spaced. Booth thinks the victim may have broken through security glass, the kind used in prison, which has wire mesh embedded in the glass.

Angela recovers the victim's SIM card but can't find a matching phone to put it in. She's worried that she'll fry the phone if she attempts to charge it, so Wendell suggests they build a battery out of potatoes, which he steals from the cafeteria. He connects hundreds of them in a series to increase voltage and then in parallel to increase amperage. This works, but Angela is only able to get the last incoming call's phone number. Booth gets a trace on the number to a building near Hill and 27th. He and Brennan break apart the stadium seats, which allows them to escape through the ceiling hatch of the elevator. At the address, they find security glass in several basement windows, and one of the panes is broken. One woman appears at the window, and then several more. A man appears outside, coughing and sputtering, and manages to disarm Booth. Brennan hits him with a piece of wood, and he collapses on Booth. The Albanian man, Turik Grazdani, seems to have trafficked in women, promising young girls in Albania jobs in the U.S., and then selling them into slavery. He also has CCHF. Saroyan reports that the CDC will track down anyone Grazdani came into contact with, so that the CCHF can be contained. The girls in the basement will testify against Grazdani, but it is pretty clear that he killed Weston, who likely found out what he was doing and was attempting to put an end to it.

On the personal drama side of things, Angela and Hodgins are both carriers for LCA - Leber's Congenital Amaurosis. Although LCA affects 1 in 80,000 people, it's an autosomal recessive disorder. Because both parents are carriers, the child has a 1 in 4 chance of getting both copies of the recessive gene and having the disorder, which causes blindness. Hodgins sweetly suggests that he will learn to play the piano - in case he can't teach his child to look through a microscope - and that Angela should learn to sculpt - in case she can't teach the child to draw. And Booth and Brennan take a look at their relationship both in and outside of the elevator, spurred on by Sweets. They both agree that they are attracted to one another but also agree to wait until the time is right for both of them to be in a relationship with one another.

Forensic Comments
  • I am going to take some credit for this awesome episode of Bones and suggest that the writers read my past reviews and realized that they could do better. A few minor points...
  • It was around 70 degrees in D.C. today. Sure, the writers can't predict the weather months in advance, but this episode probably should have aired weeks ago.
  • Why is someone in D.C. throwing out seats from a stadium in Philadelphia?
  • Why doesn't an important forensics lab in the national's capital have a generator?
  • It's unclear why either Angela or Hodgins would have been tested for LCA (I don't recall it being a normal test during pregnancy, and it seems to be a diagnosis and test applied only after a child is born with vision problems). Did one of them know of a family history? I guess they're both geeky enough to have had genetic screenings for the heck of it?
  • The victim was mentioned as being part Native American, but her ancestry was never brought up again. Seems odd to have mentioned it in the first place (although I guess it was to make a point that she was American and not of foreign birth?).
  • I didn't find an article in Medical Physics about xrays and triboluminescence, but it's well known that sticky tape can be used in this way. The Skull in the Stars blog post linked to above is an excellent summary.
  • When Hodgins and Wendell were using the scotch tape xray machine, they are shown with a humerus. When they talk about the foreign objects they found, they mention it's a femur.
  • Otherwise... wow, they finally mentioned discriminant function analysis! Although I'm not sure how they did it without electricity and a computer running FORDISC. The pubic symphysis is the right choice for age. And even all of the harebrained things the Jeffersonian team did to mimic xrays and other analytical procedures seem to have fairly solid science behind them. This is what Bones should be every episode!

Booth's need to have the seats was kind of lame. But hey, from my internetting, it seems like the sixth game of the World Series on Tuesday, October 21, 1980, was a pretty good one. Hodgins' anger and sadness at his test results were reasonable, but why would Angela be mad at him? She's also a carrier.


Forensic Mystery - A. There was mystery about who the victim was, who killed her, and why... and there were questions about the origin and spread of a deadly virus to boot.

Forensic Solution - A. Blackout, deadly virus, inability to rely on ridiculous and unrealistic technological crutches = well-rounded and dramatic forensic science.

Drama - A. Again, the virus pushed a solid episode over the top. I was even invested in the other main dramatic plot, the genetic testing of Angela and Hodgins, because I would probably have been inconsolable had I gotten news like that when I was pregnant.

Well, Bones writers, you have sufficiently impressed me. I may even watch that episode again (while not taking notes). I have extremely high hopes for the next episode, though, when Booth and Brennan visit the (knock-off of the) Body Farm. Don't let me down.

March 16, 2011

114th Four Stone Hearth

Four Stone Hearth is a biweekly blog carnival of all things anthropological. In each edition, the host gives her readers a snapshot of anthropology blog posts around the web. Feel free to comment below or to journey on to the authors' respective posts. And do remember to bookmark Four Stone Hearth for future editions!

The contributed articles this week defy easy classification. Rather than reflecting just one stone in our hearth, they cross-cut the subfields and encapsulate the vast range of anthropological inquiry. To me, the ability to draw together so many ideas and methods under the umbrella of anthropology is the discipline's greatest strength. So let's instead take them in a sort of reverse chronological order, from modern people to our primate ancestors.

Over at Anthropology in Practice, Krystal D'Costa meshes cultural and physical anthropologies on the social plane in her post "This Is Your Brain on Disney." She writes that:
As an alternative to understanding why specific forms of entertainment are so appealing, Palmer and Coe instead suggest they reflect parenting strategies to influence the behavior of offspring. The "parenting mind hypothesis" proposes that the size of the human brain developed via natural selection in response to parental ability to influence behavior—big brains allowed offspring to store and replicate behaviors modeled by parents that enabled survival and reproduction.

They suggest that our susceptibility to these forms of entertainment allow Disneyland—and other forms of art and entertainment—to exist. But I would amend that to say that our potential susceptibility to these traits allows the Disney franchise and other good examples of art, creativity, storytelling, humor, wit, music, fantasy, and morality—such as movies and plays—to be successful because they help us construct (non-sexual) social connections.

Ippolytos Kalofonos of the University of Washington has a very interesting post over at Somatosphere on healthcare interventions in Mozambique, specifically antiretroviral treatment: "Therapeutic Enclaves in Central Mozambique?" The post is a bit long, as it was based on his 2010 AAA paper, but well worth reading, as Kalofonos situates this treatment intervention within the world economy and adds nuance with the idea that philanthropic prestige may be more important than creating lasting change in a culture. He argues that:

[...] Donors often frame the success of their HIV/AIDS treatment interventions in terms of numbers: "lives saved," "directly supported care," and "numbers tested." These claims generate moral capital for some of the most powerful countries, institutions, and individuals in the world, allowing them to show they responsibly respond to the suffering of the poor as the interventions powerfully influence the shape of the public health infrastructure of much of the world, the distribution of health care resources, and the ways people care for themselves and each other. [...] These interventions effectively disarticulate HIV/AIDS from local social and economic realities. As a result, the actual benefits of the interventions to individuals and collectivities are limited and short-lived. Even while lives are saved, broader issues of inequality, food insecurity, and unstable livelihoods are unaddressed and may even be exacerbated by the structures being erected.
Two interesting posts came through this week that initially seem strongly archaeological in nature but also have significant links to the present day. In Sweden, there is a controversy brewing over the fate of "exploratory" archaeology (which is better known as contract archaeology or cultural resource management in the U.S.). Magnus Reuterdahl at Testimony of the Spade summarizes the new regulations and links to other Swedish archaeologists and their opinions of the proposed legal changes:

The risk of this proposal lies in further pressure on prices at the expense of science – but if you look at other deregulations they have rarely led to lower prices. It will most probably lead to a situation where it will be more important to be on good terms with the entrepreneurs. This will place new demands on archaeological performers, the County Boards and the National Heritage board – there are several risks concerning this that should be discussed in depth. [...] I’m not sure if this proposal will be for the better or the worse – and much can happen before this goes in front of the parliament – but it will change the archaeological landscape of Sweden.
Over at Elfshot, Tim Rast blogs about creating quartz microblades that can be fitted onto a handle in: "Hafting Stemmed Quartz Microblades." The resulting tools are very cute - inasmuch as deadly Palaeoeskimo weapons can be cute. The post reminded me of an NPR piece from February, in which Kevin Kelly, the editor of Wired Magazine, asserted that "there is no species of technology that has ever gone exinct on this planet." The NPR host, Robert Krulwich, suggests "Palaeolithic hammers." Are palaeo-tools extinct, though? Clearly Rast and others are still knapping - does the different purpose (Rast is making his for reproductions) of the modern knapped blades mean that the palaeo-blades are an extinct species of technology? It's a question I asked my ANTH 101 students on their midterm, and a question to which I got varying answers.

Reaching back even further into the human past, CIV blogs at Femora & Cream and asks about "Pair bonding as the foundation of human social structure?" She has her doubts about the recent Hill & Walker article, which suggests "pair bonding as the basis for modern human non-related cooperative social groups." CIV discusses various problems with the article, as well as with the NY Times' coverage of the article, but chief among them is the idea that the natural state of human coupling is monogamous. She writes that one of the major problems with positing pair bonding as an evolved behavior is that:
First, and this may be more of a pet peeve, Chapais (2011) calls extant humans monogamous, but in actuality we are not truly monogamous (if we were, we would remain with the same single mate/partner the entirety of our lives). There are many polygamous groups (mostly, where one man has more than one wife, but also when one woman has more than one husband) and even in Western societies where monogamy is considered the norm, people have multiple sexual partners in their lifetime, and even multiple marriages. The vast majority of humanity may be monogamous (I cannot speak to this) but it's certainly not a universal. Like many (or most) things human, these behaviors may further be highly influenced by cultural, learned, values, and we've probably evolved to be highly flexible.
Switching gears from coupling to calling, Raymond Ho at The Prancing Papio details "The Semantics of Vervet Monkey Alarm Calls," which bridges physical anthropology and touches on some of the possible origins of language and linguistic behavior that can be seen in our primate cousins. After deftly navigating the evidence for vervet alarm calls, Ho concludes that:
Most of us interpret animal alarm calls as an uncontrollable auditory response to fear or pain, akin to humans yelping if we had our finger caught in a door. While this is not entirely false, some animal calls actually convey information from the caller to the listener. Seyfarth et al. (1980) posit that vervet monkey alarm calls are actually basic semantic signals or symbolic signals because each alarm calls seem to mean something to these vervet monkeys. While we don't know if these alarm calls actually mean "leopard" or "run up to the tree", we do know that it conveys specific information to their conspecific about approaching predators.
And now, dear reader, to wrap up our conversation at the Hearth tonight, let's get a bit personal. On Valentine's Day, Rex at Savage Minds proposed that all willing anthropologists write an anecdote about our feelings for our discipline. A month later, Daniel Lende at Neuroanthropology rounded them up and published them in "Anthropology Love Letters." Grab a glass of wine, snuggle up, and enjoy this collection of anthropology meet-cutes!

March 14, 2011

Women, Anthropologists, Scientists

One of my favorite blogs is Letters of Note, in which proprietor Shaun Usher posts scans of original letters and contextualizes them within the cultural milieu of the time period. Last week, in honor of International Women's Day, Shaun posted a letter that the astronomer Carl Sagan sent to every member of The Explorers Club. What prompted Sagan to spend the time and money to mail a slew of letters? The Club's refusal to allow women to join... in 1981. Sagan points out the contributions that women have made to science, and he specifically cites five prominent female scientists by name, noting that:
Today women are making extraordinary contributions in areas of fundamental interest to our organization. There are several women astronauts. The earliest footprints -- 3.6 million years old -- made by a member of the human family have been found in a volcanic ash flow in Tanzania by Mary Leakey. Trailblazing studies of the behavior of primates in the wild have been performed by dozens of young women, each spending years with a different primate species. Jane Goodall's studies of the chimpanzee are the best known of the investigations which illuminate human origins. The undersea depth record is held by Sylvia Earle. The solar wind was first measured in situ by Marcia Neugebauer, using the Mariner 2 spacecraft. The first active volcanos beyond the Earth were discovered on the Jovian moon Io by Linda Morabito, using the Voyager 1 spacecraft. These examples of modern exploration and discovery could be multiplied a hundredfold. They are of true historical significance. If membership in The Explorers Club is restricted to men, the loss will be ours; we will only be depriving ourselves.

In light of the recent conversations going on at the American Anthropological Association (and in the blogosphere) about the place of science in anthropology and how anthropology needs a more public face, it was remarkable to see Sagan demonstrate the importance of women in science by citing the work of two amazing anthropologists.

March 11, 2011

Four Stone Hearth - Call for Submissions

I will be hosting Four Stone Hearth for March 16th. This blog carnival is published biweekly and accepts submissions from professionals, amateurs, and anyone else interested in the wide-ranging field of anthropology. We anthropologists study humankind throughout time and all over the world, and our discipline is unique in the integration of four subfields: archaeology, sociocultural anthropology, biological or physical anthropology, and linguistic anthropology. Four Stone Hearth seeks to highlight interesting and newsworthy items of an anthropological nature in digest form.

Suggestions for items to include in the carnival should be sent to me at I will round them up and post the results in the 114th installment of Four Stone Hearth next week!

March 10, 2011

Bones - Season 6, Episode 15 (Review)

The Killer in the Crosshairs

Episode Summary

The episode opens with cross-cutting of two parallel stories: Jacob Broadsky gets ready for his day in a hotel, giant rifle propped up against the wall, and Brennan is jogging when Booth, on his day off, joins her. As Booth and Brennan get coffee, Broadsky sets up shop in a warehouse and kills a man who is carrying a briefcase full of money. He leaves the corpse, and the gooey bits quickly liquefy and get eaten by rats.

Booth, Brennan, and Miss Julian are called to the scene. Based on the presence of the rats and the state of the body, Brennan estimates it has only been a matter of hours since the victim died. She also estimates, based on the heart-shaped superior (pelvic) inlet, that the victim was male. Booth confirms this with his clothing and ID: Walter Crane. The hand-made copper bullet Booth finds in the wall and the manner of death - severing the spinal cord from the brain stem at the level of C5 - both suggest Broadsky's work.

At the Jeffersonian, Mr. Nigel-Murray is restraining himself from divulging random factoids because his sponsor thinks it's his way of distancing himself in interpersonal relationships. The cause of death, Nigel-Murray confirms, is high velocity (penetrating) trauma resulting in the severing of the spinal cord. Brennan points out, however, that Walter Crane was born and raised in Virginia, but the nitrogen isotope ratios from his bone apatite suggest he was a midwesterner. Hodgins discovers that the money the victim was carrying was counterfeit: it had been bleached (sodium hypochlorite). The victim was actually Walter Coolidge and was in the witness protection program for ratting out a man named Ortiz. Booth questions Ortiz, who said that Broadsky called him and offered to kill Coolidge.

Since Broadsky's victims are all people who got away with something, Booth thinks that Broadsky must be getting information from someone in law enforcement, a tip-off a la Dexter. He and Brennan run through a list of U.S. marshals who had connections to both the Gravedigger case and the Coolidge counterfeiting case. Eventually, Booth suspects that Broadsky's informant is Corporal Paula Ashwaldt, a decorated war veteran whose life Broadsky saved in the field. Booth confronts Ashwaldt, who admits to having given Broadsky information about the Gravedigger case. When pressed about the security of her computer files, Ashwaldt admits that she trusted Broadsky; she offers to go through her files to see what had been tampered with if Booth will give her time before arresting her. She is then quickly dispatched in the next scene, having committed suicide.

Booth and Brennan head to Broadsky's property from Episode 11 to see if he's there. He's not, but circling carrion birds lead them to a dead deer. The fragmentation of its skull indicates it had been used as target practice, but Booth can't figure out how the shot was accomplished. Brennan brings the deer back to the Jeffersonian to see if the team can reconstruct more about the kind of weapon used. Hodgins finds out that the bullet fragments are titanium and tungsten with other alloys. What's interesting is that it's a big bullet - 110 caliber - and that it fragmented into over 150 pieces, yet there is no sign of impact at the tip. Angela suspects that the circuitry found in the venison was part of the bullet, designed to allow the shooter to detonate the bullet in a difficult-to-access location.

Meanwhile, Booth finds Broadsky in his house. Broadsky suggests that it's Booth's fault that Ashwaldt is dead and that it'll be Booth's fault if he's collateral damage at some point in the future. Jarred by this encounter, Booth seeks out Sweets to ask why Brennan seems to equate Broadsky and Booth. Sweets reassures Booth that he has a moral compass that Broadsky lacks.

The sophisticated bullet leads Booth and Miss Julian to Mr. Winkler, an arms manufacturer. He can't give them much information about Broadsky's intentions, but Broadsky did happen to give Winkler the exact specs for the room in which the intended victim would be shot: 30x18 feet, marble paneling and floor, and a 12-ft-high copper ceiling. Before Angela can cross-reference this with plans on file for D.C., Miss Julian realizes that it's the women's room of the federal courthouse. Based on her reconstruction of the practice shots taken on the deer, Angela thinks that Broadsky's going to set up on the rooftop at Riggs and 18th Streets. Booth and Brennan hurry to the roof but don't see Broadsky. They realize, as they're talking to Miss Julian about the possible victims in the courthouse, that the men's bathroom is identical. They race to find Broadsky and set up a clean shot, but Booth only manages to disable Broadsky's weapon without killing him.

And in other plot news, Angela's father comes back to town and for some unknown reason demands to name his grandchild. Hodgins for some reason agrees to this, until the name is revealed: Staccato Mamba. Faced with this, Hodgins takes a stand and says that the baby will be Michael Joseph or Catherine Temperance. For his transgression, Hodgins is once again physically assaulted by his father-in-law, this time waking up from a blackout with a tattoo of the latter's face on his arm.

Forensic Comments
  • As with Episode 11, there was so little forensic anthropology work in this episode that I don't really have much to say... So, chronologically:
  • Does Emily Deschanel know how to run? I'd think the smartest physical anthropologist in the world would have perfected proper body posture and speed for most efficient bipedalism or something.
  • Why does Broadsky need to snipe the victim in the warehouse? Can't he just go up to him and kill him with a regular gun and silencer? Also, if he was so close, why didn't the victim hear him talking near him in addition to being on the phone?
  • Heart-shaped superior inlet needs a "pelvic;" the delivery on this phrase was so garbled I had to rewind 5 times to understand what Brennan was saying. As always, there are better ways to figure out sex of the deceased (and with his clothes still on, I'm not sure how she even saw his pelvic inlet), but at least the writers are trying to switch up the markers of sex from episode to episode? It would still be nice if they recognized once in a while that: "Skeletal age estimation is a multifactorial, extremely complicated facet of forensic osteology" (Dolniak et al., 2005).
  • While you can get nitrogen isotope ratios from bone apatite, they reflect diet from the last few years of life, not origin. I assume that the idea was that someone from Virginia would have eaten seafood more often than someone from the midwest; differential consumption of seafood would be seen in the nitrogen isotope ratios. Sr, O, S, Nd, Pb, and other elements are a much better choice for origin than one that's a proxy for diet. Additionally, they were using bone, which is a record of the last perhaps 10 years of life, so the nitrogen analysis of someone who'd moved to D.C. more than 10 years ago and started eating seafood would be the same as someone who was born and raised there. This was really confusing to me.

Brennan's day off includes attending a lecture on the Peloponnesian War. I'd go to that. I was excited to see Nigel-Murray back this episode, as he's my favorite of the interns, but the writers didn't bother to give him anything interesting to say. Sweets didn't have too much to do again, but he was pretty good with Booth. The less said about the whole "Angela's father demands to name the baby" plot line, the better. I used to like Billy Gibbons as her father, but it's getting old. And I don't get why Hodgins and Sweets are scared of him rather than, say, turning him in to Booth for physical assault. I also figured out why Broadsky talks funny: he's played by Arnold Vosloo, who is South African (and played Imhotep in The Mummy - I knew I recognized him from somewhere).


Forensic Mystery - D. There wasn't a forensic mystery in this episode. Coolidge was killed by a long sniper shot. He was positively identified by something, I assume. There was no question about who was killed or really even by whom.

Forensic Solution - C. Since one person had ID on him and the other wasn't killed, there wasn't a lot of forensic anthropology work to be done. What was done - nitrogen isotope analysis - would not narrow down the victim's place of birth, since it was done on bone.

Drama - C. For most of the episode, I was terribly bored. I suppose the police work was good, but there were far too many leads and dead ends that needed to be tied up - like having Ashwaldt commit suicide off camera and even off dialogue (we only get a report after Booth takes a phone call). So the drama was fast-paced (except for the Angela's father storyline) but sloppy.

I managed to recycle several lines from my Episode 11 post that involved Broadsky. This is not my favorite recurring storyline, and I hope they spin this off soon because Bones needs more forensics and less police work.

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