April 30, 2012

Bones - Season 7, Episode 11 (Review)

The Family in the Feud
Episode Summary
A yokel is out hunting for truffles, but the giant pig finds a dead body whose eyes emit a scary red glow.  The Jeffersonian is dispatched to the scene, and Brennan guesses that the person was a Caucasian male based on the large and projecting mastoid process, broad chin, and high nasal root, and from the porosity of the ulna, she guesses the man was about 80 years old at death.  Hodgins identifies the weird glow as the result of railroad worms in the eye orbits; they can glow green or red to scare off predators. Although Brennan infers that the man was killed by penetrating trauma that caused a lot of blood, none of the highly trained FBI agents bothers to look for a bullet near the body.

Back at the Jeffersonian, Brennan and Saroyan disagree on the man's age at death.  Brennan is still insisting 80 because of the porosity (indicative of osteoporosis and aging), but Saroyan thinks 40 because of the robusticity of muscle attachments.  Both stick to their assessments, even though porosity is a crappy way to tell age from bone (as it could be affected by disease) and robusticity is a crappy way to tell age as well (as the person could have been unusually fit or weak). Brennan doubles down on stupidity, insisting that carbon dating the bone will give her the most accurate result.  Fortunately, the man had six toes (polydactyly), so he was easy to identify based on hospital records (I think?) as Tug Babcock.  Neither the polydactyly nor the surprisingly robust frame is ever mentioned again.  Daisy finds that Tug was shot from the left side at a range of about 15 feet, and the bullet nicked the fourth lumbar vertebra before inexplicably shattering the right half of the pelvis.

The immediate suspects, based on the Babcocks' assertions, are the Mobleys, who have had a long-standing feud with them.  Actually, there are only two Mobleys, it seems, some older dude and a young girl stereotypically named Sue Bob.  Another suspect is Dennis Timmonds, who had a contract to dig for copper on Tug's land after he died. Mobley is initially ruled out, since the casing and bullet (which Angela had to go out with a metal detector to find embedded in a tree) aren't a match for his gun, and Timmonds is dispatched quickly too.

Daisy reconstructs the shattered right pelvis and finds a 2mm bore hole with little remodeling, likely from a bone biopsy done just days prior to Tug's death.  Saroyan runs some tests and finds out that Tug was suffering from osteogenic chondrosarcoma. At stage 4, it was widely metastatic, and he had just weeks to live.

Brennan takes the bullet and casing home, as Daisy and Angela found bone dust not matching the victim's in it.  She can't figure out why there is "tunneling" in the bone, and Hodgins thinks it looks archaeological, so she sends it off to be carbon dated.  It comes back within hours, during a smoothie-klatch among the women of the Jeffersonian, as being 120 years old.  Bone dust was packed into the ammunition - bone dust from Stonewall Mobley, the great-great-great-grandfather of the current Mobley guy.  He commissioned the bullets from what I presume is a large stash of Stonewall's bones that have been lying around for over a century.  Mobley admits to having the bullets, but they were taken by Claire Babcock when she came to destroy the half of his house that was encroaching on the Babcocks' land.  Since Claire was Tug's lawyer, she stood to lose a lot of money if the feud ever stopped.  They search her house and find the bullets and her gun, which she insists she can't shoot.  Brennan suggests she'd have an injury from the recoil, and she does, but it's only circumstantial.  Hodgins gets a warrant to test Claire's clothes for truffle spores, and he finds them, placing her at the scene in the right time-frame.  She confesses.

In the B plot, Hodgins and Daisy work together to figure out why the truffles he collected taste like ass.  Turns out, a nearby stream is contaminated by all sorts of nasty heavy metals and has been since the 1800s.  And yet people trolled the area for truffles that tasted like ass for over a century?  The Mobley-Babcock feud didn't start because one had poisoned the other - they had accidentally poisoned themselves by drinking tainted water.

In the C plot, Christine was kicked out of the Jeffersonian's daycare purely so Ryan O'Neal would have something to do.  Brennan gives her father chance after chance not to screw up, but he keeps doing so.  In spite of her expressed desire to get Christine a nanny and have one-on-one tutoring in the Montessori or Waldorf styles, she goes with her deadbeat felon of a father. 'cause blood is thicker than heavy metal-riddled water. (I have to say, though, a multilingual, multicultural song time is not too much to ask.)

Forensic Comments
  • As usual, the assessment of sex could use a few more markers than just the mastoid (which is larger in males).  I'm not sure what "broad chin" means; not specific enough.
  • A high nasal root is one of the features of the skull that can suggest European ancestry.  But I'd been pretty happy that Bones hadn't gotten into the whole "race" debate this season.
  • Railroad worms are usually found in orchards, not forests with truffles.
  • As noted, porosity of bone - of one bone, no less - is a terrible way to estimate age-at-death. Sure, our bone density tends to decrease with age, but any number of things could make bone more or less porous.  
  • If the cancer was so widespread that Tug's pelvis could shatter, someone should have seen evidence of the cancer in the bones, not just the hole from the biopsy needle.
  • Dear Bones Writers: First, carbon-dating tells you how old a bone is in chronological time, not how old the person was at death.  Second, you can't carbon date forensic remains; they are too recent.  In sum, carbon dating tells you when a person died (provided it was 50+ years ago) but not the age at which the person died.  Having Brennan assert she could tell the man's age with accuracy is just dumb, dumb, beyond dumb.  At least the bone dust in the bullet could actually be carbon dated.
  • Why wasn't the polydactyly mentioned again?  In a plot about a family feud, you'd think there would be a big reveal about this genetic trait - Tug Babcock had it, and Sue Bob Mobley had it too - gaaassssp, they are related!  Way to squander an awesome sixth toe on the victim's ID.
  • Booth tells Brennan to stay back at Mobley's house because "I don't want Christine to lose both parents."  Yeah, so, you'd think the FBI would have rules against parents being partners because of exactly this scenario.
  • Brennan just looks through bone dust at home with her super powerful microscope while waiting for Max.  Like ya do, 'cause chain of custody isn't a biggie and there's no way she'd compromise evidence in a murder trial.
  • Oh, I forgot to rag on the accents.  They were horrific.  Actually worse than the fake accent of the intern... I don't have the energy to look up his name.  Anyway, if you're going to make people do "hick" accents, at least make them all do the same "hick" accent.  Those were all over the place.
  • So why do people hunt for truffles on land that's poisonous and makes truffles taste horrible?  Who buys those truffles?
  • Why doesn't Brennan's front door have a peep hole?  Why does she just unlock and open it without asking who's there?
Forensic Mystery - C.  I was excited about the weird worms and the polydactyly, but the writers disappointed me by dropping the ball on the latter.

Forensic Solution - D.  Taking off a lot of points here because of the ridiculous Brennan/Saroyan fight in which they both came off looking like idiots who should take a remedial osteology course.

Drama - C. Again, I was excited to think that there was going to be a big twist related to the feud, but there wasn't. The Brennan-Max subplot lined up nicely with the inter-family feud, but I still found it hard to believe.  And I still think Brennan and Booth kissing looks weird.

Next Week: Bones gets all meta as Brennan's book (whose protagonist, you may recall, is conveniently named Kathy Reichs) is made into a TV show.  I'm actually looking forward to this, in a weird way.

Roman Bioarchaeology Carnival XVI

A surprising dearth of Roman bioarchaeology news this past month...

News and Analyses
New tombs at Alexandria (credit)
  • 28 April - And in more Belcastro news, it seems the remains of St. Deodata, a Christian martyr of the 4th century AD, were found - the front of a skull is marked "Corpus Sanctae Deodatae." Belcastro found in the reliquary the remains of a woman age 36-39, along with bones from two adolescents. I couldn't find much on this saint - anyone have any clue who she was?
  • 4 April - York Minster tantalises archaeologists with hints of Saxon church.  Apparently a ton of bones have been found at York Minster, used to backfill a Medieval trench.  They may date as early as the 5th century (just post-Roman) or as late as the 8th century (just pre-Viking).  Much more research on the bones is expected.
Exhibits and Conferences
Fake News (Satire)
That's all, folks!  Join me here next month for another roundup... or join PbO now on Facebook for all the latest bioarchaeology news.

April 23, 2012

Bones - Season 7, Episode 10 (Review)

The Warrior in the Wuss

Episode Summary
A couple guys playing hooky from work stumble over - or rather, into - a headless body.  Brennan and Booth arrive, with Hodgins, to scope the scene.  Brennan notes that the person was male based on the heart-shaped pelvic inlet, Hodgins estimates time of death as three days prior based on blowfly larvae, and Booth falls down a hill and finds the head in a puddle.

At the Jeffersonian, Saroyan finds that the stomach and pyloric sphincter are intact, which will allow her to figure out the last things he ate.  Brennan estimates the man's age at death as 26 to 36 years old based on the pulp cavity depth of the maxillary central incisor.  She and Clark note a perimortem wound on the man's right ischial spine, consistent with a stabbing injury that may have severed the external iliac artery.  Angela's facial reconstruction and vital stats don't get a hit in the missing persons database, but Clark notes the man's height may be exaggerated.  He found markers on the man's right distal interphalangeal (DIP) joints and calcaneus that make him think the man wore lifts or heels.  With an exaggerated height of 5'8" (rather than the man's real height, 5'5"), Angela gets a hit - Tony Cole.

Cole's wife notes that Tony's colleague at Spark & Steel, Karl Singler, often made fun of Tony's short stature.  Clark examines the cleaned bones and finds the tip of a weapon that was at least 7" long embedded in Tony's ischium.  Booth and Bones decide to go check Karl out - they find him with a van full of metal implements, many of which fit the description of the murder weapon.

At the FBI, Sweets tells Booth that a recent police report was filed against Tony.  He tried to start a fight with his son's karate teacher, and the son called 911.  They question Danny, the son, about it, and he admits to picking a fight with Blake, the sensei's kid. Meanwhile, Saroyan notes points of compromised periosteum over the pelvis and lower extremities that indicate bruising with highly localized points of impact.  All of these lead Booth and Brennan to question the sensei.

But the style of karate being practiced is shodokan aikido, or "empty hand" (no weapons).  Brennan still wants to measure the sensei's hands and feet to see if they match Cole's bruises.  Using Angela's technology, they determine that the person who caused the bruising was smaller than the sensei, possibly a kid.  Saroyan finds lots of peanuts in Cole's stomach, and Hodgins rehydrates and dissects a mezcal worm he found.  Because of the small but precise bruises, Brennan and Booth return to the karate studio and question Blake, the daughter of the sensei.  She admits to beating up Cole, after he got irate when she defended herself against Danny's attack, and she has proof of it - her friend videotaped it and uploaded it to "WeTube."

Clark once again reexamines the ischial spine.  Scratching on the bone makes it look like Cole was stabbed from the front, then the weapon was pulled out the back, an unlikely scenario.  Hodgins traces the contents of the mezcal worm to a specific distillery in Mexico, which makes Maguey del Sol.  Only three bars in the D.C. area are licensed to sell it, and one is on Cole's normal work route: Cantina Carreras.  Booth and Brennan talk to the owner, who admitted to giving Cole the liquor.  Cole had had a bad day, as the video of him getting beaten up by Blake had just gone viral.  Sweets and Angela attempt to track the hits to the video, and they determine that the source of the virality was likely Karl Singler.  He spread it to all of Cole's customers, hoping they'd defect to him.  It seems Cole found out about this, confronted Karl, and Karl kill him with the curved fishing blade on his multi-tooled knife.

The B plot this episode involves Hodgins' buying more equipment than the Jeffersonian can afford.  He is instructed to return at least some of it by Saroyan, his boss, but he ignores her.  He uses each piece of equipment to help solve the case, then uses the equipment at the end of the episode to distill alcohol and make guacamole.

In the C plot, Parker is back from England(?) and meets his new baby sister for the first time.  Although he seems happy, he starts sneaking out of the house and then destroys some of his possessions.  Brennan and Booth finally confront him, and it turns out he's made a mobile for Christine.

Forensic Comments
  • I don't understand how Hodgins can buy things without Saroyan's approval, much less against her wishes.  Someone has to sign those requisition forms and get budgetary approval for spiffy gadgets that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each.  And would the Jeffersonian really not let Hodgins buy his own equipment, since he's independently wealthy?  I don't see why that would be a conflict of interest, if he "donated" it to his lab.
  • A heart-shaped pelvic inlet is a very quick, very imprecise method of estimating sex of a skeleton.  (The idea being that males tend to have a more curved sacrum than females do, since we don't want the tip of our coccyx to poke our babies on the way out.)  As usual, it annoys me that they never revisit their sex/age estimation in the lab with multiple methods.
  • Estimating age based on pulp cavity depth is not a commonly used method in bioarchaeology, since our skeletons are long-dead, but there seems to be recent research on the method in the world of forensics.
  • I know that, according to the dictionary, ischial is indeed pronounced IS-key-al.  But I have always heard ISH-ee-al, the Anglicized pronunciation.  Votes as to how wrong I am about this? 
  • I'd never heard the phrases "pump bump" or "mallet toe" before and had to look them up.  The former  is actually Haglund's deformity, or bursitis at the calcaneus that could theoretically lead to some minor bony changes.  And the latter is another name for hammer toe, which affects the proximal interphalangeal joints (PIPs) of the feet, not the DIPs as Clark noted.
Dialogue and Plot Comments
  • What was Parker doing in England?  (Serious question.  Don't feel like looking it up.)  And how old is he?  (I can't remember that either.)  Why isn't he in school?
  • Brennan thinks that a fun family activity would be trawling their property looking for carrion and then rearticulating the skeletons.  I actually agree.
  • Way too much time was devoted to the worm autopsy.  In fact, a lot of this episode felt padded.
  • Brennan and Booth frequently go back home during the day, even though their infant is in daycare?  And Parker acts all strange for a full day, including leaving the house without their knowledge or permission, yet neither one of them thinks to talk to him until the following day?
  • Booth refers to Brennan as "Bones" when talking to Parker.  Brennan calls herself "Temperance" when talking to Parker.  Thankfully, Parker also calls her "Temperance."  It's definitely a pet peeve of mine that Booth and Brennan refer to one another by last names, even in private.
  • Hey, look, there are at least 7 other people who work at the Jeffersonian!  And they don't get to talk to the main characters, even at a party.  One of these days, someone needs to write a web series for them, like a modernized Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (oh, the sheer number of possible puns is making my head spin...).
  • The theme of the episode made me think of today's Sociological Images post on bias against short men, and then I was annoyed at the title - there was no indication Cole was a "wuss" (a very emasculating term), just that he was short and had been bullied for it.
What I Like about Bones (Clothing Edition)
  • Since many of you think I'm too negative, I will say that I loved Angela's dress.  And I mean LOVE.  If anyone recognizes it and can tell me where to buy it, I will give you 1,000 internets and my undying gratitude.
  • I liked that Brennan's outfits were quite conducive to nursing in this episode, even if nothing has been said about her nursing her infant since the one episode that mentioned it.
  • Seems to me Saroyan has gotten too thin recently.  But I loved her outfits too - the floral-print dress and the top-and-skirt combo at the makeshift fiesta were both awesome.
Forensic Mystery - B.  It took a bunch of different methods to finally ID the victim.  Although I would have preferred for them to use more accurate (and multiple) methods, the mystery about the weapon was decent.

Forensic Solution - B-.  I wasn't all that excited about Hodgins' newfangled equipment that helped solve the case.  But it did help solve the case.

Drama - C-.  The murder mystery was slightly more involved than most episodes, but the Parker story line was lame (and telegraphed from a mile away).

Next week: Christine gets kicked out of the Jeffersonian's daycare?  Could be interesting, or could be lame.

April 21, 2012

Felix dies natalis, Roma!

Today is the anniversary of the founding of Rome - in other words, Rome's birthday.

April 21 is sacred to the the goddess Pales, and Rome therefore celebrated the Palilia or Parilia, an agricultural/pastoral festival.  Although this festival probably pre-dates the founding of Rome, the ethos of what it meant to be "Roman" was so wrapped up in landowning and farming that it's likely the date was specifically repurposed for the birthday of Rome.

The year of Rome's "birth" is also uncertain; during the Empire, Varro suggested 753 BC but the Fasti Capitolini say 752 BC.  So I'd say that this is Rome's 2,765th birthday, but others would disagree.

Back in 2007, I was in Rome for her birthday, along with my husband (who snapped these pictures and video) and former student Lara.  The start of the parade looks (and sounds) like this:

And here's a slideshow of some of the awesome costumes on display:

So, in honor of Rome's birthday, maybe you should go make a cake.  Perhaps a cheesecake or a honey cake?

April 16, 2012

Bones - Season 7, Episode 9 (Review)

The Don't in the 'Do

Episode Summary
A bunch of birds, heads covered in new blue goo (gooey gooey), fly erratically around a congregation that is hoping to build a new church on a garbage dump, then immediately die.  One was clutching a piece of skull with an eye still in it.

Apparently, this is the FBI's jurisdiction, so they start flagging the birds and find the decomposing skeleton.  Hodgins estimates time of death at around two weeks prior.  Brennan notes from the advanced fusion of the sacrum that the victim was male, around 30 years old, and about 185cm tall. Because of course you can get all that information from one highly variable bone.  He also has no hair, so you know that'll be important by the second or third act.

Back at the Jeffersonian, Brennan and Vizidi get to work on isolating the scavenger marks from any marks that could lead them to figure out cause of death, Hodgins tries to identify the blue stuff, and Saroyan tests the tongue for drugs.  Almost immediately, Angela gets a hit on her facial reconstruction - Santiago Valmont, an in-demand hairstylist who was sleeping with numerous clients in exchange for money to buy drugs.  The list of suspects ranges from the women whom Santiago was sleeping with to the people he worked with - namely, the salon owner, a fellow stylist named Kevin, and the shampoo boy, Theo.

After Vizidi and Angela digitally remove all the scavenger marks, Brennan notices micro-incisions on the frontal bone, which she concludes was scalping.  Booth and Sweets take a joy ride in the latter's Toyota Product Placement with Entune technolosnooooooze to question the owner of the store outside of which Santiago got a parking ticket before his death.  The owner, Purab, absconds with a bag of hair, but Booth tackles him, then he and Sweets fondle crotchless panties. (Srsly.)

Hodgins decides that the bag o' hair needs to be separated, and since no one else works at the Jeffersonian, Saroyan and Vizidi have to do it.  He brings them wool carders from the Colonial England diorama because a) he doesn't understand how to treat museum artifacts, and b) he doesn't understand what a wool carder actually does.  Brennan meanwhile actually looks at the skeleton and sees fracturing to the L4 and L5 vertebrae; these injuries are never discussed again.  The big bag o' hair represents 25 different individuals, all removed postmortem.  Santiago's hair isn't in there.

Turns out that Purab was the natural hair supplier for both Kevin and Santiago, whose weaves were legen-waitforit-dary.  He got the hair from his uncle, a mortician, before the bodies were cremated.  Kevin is looking pretty guilty at this point, since he was dealing drugs to Santiago and had bought two gallons of antifreeze for his car, which appears to be the accelerant that was used to torch the body.  But Vizidi finds a superficial incision at the inferior margin on the anterior aspect of the body of the hyoid, 2mm superior to the attachment of the sternohyoid muscle.  

Based on the location of the sharp trauma, Brennan has an a-ha moment in the spa with Angela, realizing that Santiago was getting his hair washed when his throat was sliced open.  This leads Booth and Brennan to Theo, the only person Santiago trusted with his long, glorious, Fabioesque mane.  Theo just wanted his own chair in the salon, but Santiago laughed at him.  In a particularly unnecessary twist, Theo has kept Santiago's hair and scalp on a mannequin.  Oddly, Brennan does not anthropologize the hell out of this instance of trophy-taking.

In the B plot, Brennan complains that her pre-baby clothes don't fit her.  Of course they won't, since she's only 6-8 weeks postpartum and still nursing, but whatever.  Booth and Sweets pick out lingerie.  Angela convinces her to go to the spa.

And in the C plot, Vizidi gets an article accepted to the fictional Journal of Forensic Anthropology.  There is absolutely nothing factual about this plot, as the writers clearly have no idea how academic publishing works and didn't even bother to do a little research or ask one of their forensic consultants for some ideas.  But more on that in the...

Forensic Comments
  • It's not clear how an eyeball could have survived dousing with antifreeze, being lit on fire, and thrown into a trash dump with all manner of scavengers running around.  Eyeballs are pretty tasty, I imagine.
  • Advanced fusion of the sacrum tells you nothing.  Not sex, not age, and certainly not stature.  There is a significant amount of variability in the timing of fusion of sacral elements; some often don't fuse, and this is normal.
  • Unclear why the tongue is protected from contamination, according to Saroyan.  It's an opening into the body.  The openings are the most contaminated parts of a body, right?
  • I've seen half a dozen scalping cases, and they don't look like the micro-incisions that Brennan identifies on the skull.  They look like this.  Then again, I haven't seen contemporary scalpings.  But I do know that the few tiny marks left on the bone wouldn't be sufficient to take the entire scalp plus hair off, in order to be displayed on a mannequin.  You'd need to make additional cuts to the temporals and occipital, since the scalp doesn't just peel right off in one big chunk like cheap nail polish.
  • The hairline fracturing of L4 and L5 is mentioned and then never dealt with.  What caused them?
  • And finally, this is NOT how academic publishing works:
    • Vizidi gets galley proofs for his Journal of Forensic Anthropology article.  (Galley proofs are electronic, not printed.)
    • He's not allowed to tell anyone about the article acceptance until the journal comes out.  (Articles are published online after peer-review as early view.  In some journals, articles are published even before copyediting, or immediately after acceptance.  No one is ever surprised by the contents of a published journal volume.)
    • Vizidi excitedly shows Hodgins a footnote citing one of his papers.  Hodgins is excited.  (Most anthro journals don't use footnotes, they use parenthetical references.  The footnote to Hodgins is incomplete.  And if Hodgins is as much a bad-ass as he claims, another citation to his work wouldn't even make a dent in his h-index.)
    • Brennan reveals that she was one of the peer reviewers.  (Advisors and other supervisors generally don't review their students' papers unless there's a really good reason to do so.  Brennan's reviewing it would be considered a conflict of interest by most journal editors.)
    • In the end, Vizidi's paper is not published.  (Journals don't retract papers except in the case of data mismanagement or other ethical violations.)
    • Instead of Vizidi's paper, the Journal of Forensic Anthropology plans to run a puff piece on Selena Gomez on a fossil hunt.  (Peer-reviewed journals don't run "puff" pieces.  And even if they did, an article on a fossil hunt is completely inappropriate for a forensic journal.  But now my life's goal is to get AJPA to publish pictures of me and The Biebs riding a dinosaur at the Creation Museum.)
    • Brennan thinks that Vizidi is too immature to understand what "being published" means.  (Anthropology graduate students routinely come out of school with 3 or more publications these days.  Vizidi is pretty far behind if this is his first article.  Also, "being published" means just that - you've told other people about something you did, and a few people agreed with you that it was neato keen. It's not the end all be all.)
    • Oh, right, and Vizidi's awesome article?  "New Methodologies for Osteometric Analysis in Human Remains."  (Because what we need is another article to tell us how to measure the length of a bone?)  His follow-up?  The hilariously non-specific, "Advances in Forensic Odontology."
Dialogue and Plot Comments
  • "Krishna has been depicted as having blue skin, but he died in 3012 BCE, so decomposition would be a little more advanced." - Brennan's attempt at a joke. 
  • "See what else you missed in your quest for notoriety." - Brennan, putting Vizidi in his place. (I laughed at this, but only because I could totally imagine my advisor saying it to me...) 
  • "Tanga. That's a sea port in northern Tanzania." - Brennan, on lingerie. (It worries me that this is exactly the same thing I thought when tanga became popular as a style of underwear.) 
  • What has Brennan been wearing that she's just now realizing she doesn't have the same body she did before she got pregnant? At least Angela finally told her to just buy some damn clothes and quit whining already. 
  • The writers are clearly checking off some sort of post-partum list, never to return to the issues again. Episode 1 post-baby - nursing. Check, dealt with that. Episode 2 post-baby - body dysmorphism. Check, dealt with that. I know, I know, it's a procedural. But I had hoped for more, especially since Emily Deschanel is clearly still post-partum in these episodes. It's nice to see an actress with a real post-baby body and not a cover-of-People-in-a-swimsuit-post-baby-crash-diet body. 
  • Why does Brennan still call the father of her child and domestic partner by his last name? Please make the move to first names, people. 
  • And finally... screw you, Toyota. I don't want to buy one of your randomly accelerating cars.
Forensic Mystery - D. I hate episodes when the facial reconstruction that we've never seen gets a "hit" in a magical database and IDs the victim. Makes for boring television.

Forensic Solution - D. Really, the sacrum told you age, sex, and stature, Brennan? Why not race? Hair color? Favorite death metal band? I was most interested in Vizidi's program to remove scavenging marks, but it didn't help find cause of death. And I'm not convinced that a teeny nick to the hyoid could be seen, let alone that a cause of death could hang on it.

Drama - D-. There was no drama in this episode. Like, really, none. Did you care about the victim at all? About the killer? About Sweets' car? Booth's cliched confusion about lingerie? Brennan's trumped-up body issues? I didn't think so.

What a fun episode to hate on. Next week: fishing puns!

April 14, 2012

Bones - Season 7, Episode 8 (Review)

I was traveling and out of town much of the week at the American Association of Physical Anthropologists and the Palaeopathology Association conferences, talking to real anthropologists about real dead people.  So I had little time for Bones.  Next week, my snark will be on time, I promise...

The Bump in the Road

Episode Summary
Although it's only been one week in real time, this episode of Bones takes place 6 weeks after the birth of the Brennan-Booth baby, Christine.  Apparently the Jeffersonian has a really crappy maternity leave policy because Brennan is going back to work already.  (And the baby is at least 3 months old, but that's what TV-babies look like.)  Booth tells Brennan it'll be ok - the baby will be nearby at the Jeffersonian's on-site daycare if she needs her.  Which, yeah, they'll be seeing one another, like, every 2 hours.

Anyway, a family on a road trip hits what they think is a dead animal.  It's a person.  The Jeffersonian team is on site to scrape up the victim with spatulas.  From the small femoral head diameter, Brennan thinks the victim was female.  The victim's head was also separated from her body.

Back at the lab, Finn Abernathy (whose fake southern accent has gotten better over the hiatus) notes abrasions on the bones that look like the victim was dragged down the road.  Based on the maximum length of her fibula, she was between 154-161 cm tall.  Taking into account her gracile frame and small muscle markers, Finn estimates her weight at 54 kilograms.  Hodgins and Finn identify diesel and truck-grade lubricant on the victim, suggesting she was dragged by a semi.

Over at the FBI, Special Agent Shaw is back.  She discovers that the victim was dragged over a weigh station by a truck and traces the vehicle to Fields Market.  The driver was Alan Bates (incidentally, the name of a kid I grew up with), who didn't kill her and didn't even know he'd dragged her.  Booth and Brennan visit him, and the victim's head is still in his undercarriage.  Speaking of undercarriage, he wears hot pink panties.

The Jeffersonian staff keeps working on an ID.  Angela and Hodgins find papers stuffed in the victim's bra.  Using Angela's video spectral comparator (fancy!), they realize they're coupons.  Hodgins reasons that the pollen the woman inhaled before death could lead to her ID, so they blow out the nasal cavity, making it the episode's biggest gross-out moment (heck, the season's biggest gross-out moment).  Remarkably, Hodgins traces the pollen to the American chestnut, and the nearest farm is in Hagerstown, Maryland.  Apparently the victim's husband owns it.

The husband notes that his wife, Barb, was an extreme couponer.  She had gone to Fields Market in Frederick, MD, to do some shopping and didn't come back.  Booth and Brennan head to the grocery store, where the manager, Chad, and the carpal-tunnel-having cashier, Crystal, are prime suspects.  Once Angela finds that Barb was trading evil emails with someone named DealDiva, Booth and Brennan track her down.  But DealDiva, Rhonda, has an air-tight alibi for the night, provided by receipts from her couponing binge.  Her metal coupon box fits the shape of the wound on the victim's frontal bone.  However, Brennan finds a chip of aluminum in the skull, so it's not the box.  

The victim's husband was also stepping out on her, but he didn't kill her, and a quick check of his tools confirms there is no murder weapon among them.  Hodgins, Brennan, and Finn then note a small puncture wound to the victim's skull, with what turns out to be purple ink in it.  Brennan remembers that the grocery store manager, Chad, was using a purple pen to mark expired coupons and was writing on an aluminum clipboard.  He confesses to hitting Barb, but notes that she ran away.  However, since she hid under the truck, and then accidentally got her hair caught in the gears, and was dragged to her death, he is to blame.

Also, Finn dates Michelle.  Saroyan forbids it.  Finn dumps Michelle.  She cries to Saroyan.  Finn comes back and refuses to break up with Michelle.  In sloppy parallel structure, Brennan gets Christine to sleep but refuses to put her in her crib because she misses her so much.

Forensic Comments
  • Diameter of the femoral head is a quick-and-dirty way to estimate sex, especially if the remains are incomplete or fragmented, but it's not the most accurate.  It's always weird that Brennan never revisits her estimate after the team reconstructs the skull or gets more fragments of pelvis into the lab.
  • Maximum length of the fibula is just about the worst measurement on which to estimate stature (some would argue that the tibia is worse).  I get that the remains were fragmented, but even an arm bone would be more accurate than the fibula.
  • Estimating weight is dicey.  It's even less accurate than estimating stature.  And to come up with a precise 54 kilos - which just happened to be within 3 pounds of the victim's real weight - is unrealistic.
  • Why didn't they ever estimate the victim's age?
  • Making the "dead head" sneeze seemed excessive and unnecessary.  They could just open up her nasal passages with a scalpel.  It was impressively gross, though.  I'll give them that.
  • Why doesn't the Jeffersonian ever run tests in parallel?  I mean, they brought in Hodgins to swab the victim's skull fracture at least 3 separate times.  Why didn't anyone notice the puncture wound and purple ink when they were finding the aluminum and the v-shaped notch?  They would have solved the case much faster if they'd been paying attention.
Plot Comments
  • The writers are a bit confused about how to handle a nursing mom (as are the wardrobe people, it seems).  The way they wrote the opening scene, I assumed that Brennan wasn't nursing, since it sounded like she wouldn't see her daughter all day, when in reality, at 6 weeks, she'll be nursing that kid every 2 hours or so.  Angela also asks Brennan why she doesn't miss her kid more - a kid she gets a picture of every half hour and whom she sees every 2-3 hours.  There were some shots of Brennan holding the baby in a nursing-like position, but the baby was always asleep.  So kudos for talking about nursing, but the director could have done more to make it clear that Brennan is nursing.  Which is where the wardrobe people come in - that really ugly calf-length dress Brennan was wearing at the end of the episode?  Yeah, not nursing-friendly.  She was wearing a button-down in at least one scene, though.
  • Finn's accent is better.  I still hate the character.  I also hate the shoehorning in of the whirlwind romance between Finn and Michelle.
  • Saving 10 cents on three tapiocas is a crappy coupon.  Actually, do they even make 10-cent coupons anymore?  That seems like a shockingly small amount of money.
  • Wait, is it true that the grocery store manager could be tried for murder?  I get that he shouldn't have assaulted the woman, but hiding out underneath a semi seems pretty stupid.  Would he be getting charged with felony assault?  I'm unclear on the police work/law here.
  • Angela's kid was born when Brennan found out she was pregnant, so he's close to a year old.  Kids that age are at least crawling if not cruising around, not content to gurgle and coo in a file drawer.
  • Soooooo, Brennan is obsessed with getting organic baby wipes for her kid, but she picks up Huggies?  I am the least crunchy-granola person I know, and even I used cloth diapers for my kid.  Maybe it's supposed to be a daycare thing...
  • I am kind of interested in next week, since the writers may address Brennan's concerns about post-baby body... even though I'm not convinced the character would give a crap and, as an anthropologist, she'll know very well that she shouldn't expect to be anywhere near her pre-baby weight/figure for months, especially while nursing.  Perhaps we'll get some addressing of post-partum depression in there, though?  Anyway, the post-partum period is being written better than the pregnancy and awful, awful delivery episode.  We never got any of this with the Angelodgins baby.
Quotable Quotes
  • "Crystal's been working here since before carrot was a juice."  (I found this clever, to be honest.)
  • "Even the Norse warriors were crossdressers." (Maybe true, maybe not.)
Forensic Mystery - C.  It took a while to ID the body, which meant the team had to use some actual forensic work.  But the mystery was solved in a clunky fashion, and we got no information about the victim that would lead us to care even a tiny bit about her.

Forensic Solution - B.  Although some of their methods were odd (making the head sneeze) and their results lucky, for the most part it was solid forensic work.  Strange that they never estimated the victim's age, though.

Drama - C-.  Too much screen time for interpersonal relationships (Finn-Michelle-Saroyan; Booth-Brennan-Christine; Booth-Shaw) meant not a lot of time could be devoted to the CotW (corpse of the week).

April 12, 2012

Palaeopathology and Urban Decline at Imperial Gabii (Italy)

As I noted yesterday, I'm at the AAPA conference in Portland.  Here's the poster I'm presenting today, which details the recent work I've been doing at Gabii.

(For those of you at the conference, I'm chairing Session 2, the poster session in human osteology/bioarchaeology, at the Plaza Level of the hotel.  My poster is number 65, and I'll be hanging out with it from 10:30-11 and 2:30-3pm.  Stop by and say hi!)

Palaeopathology and Urban Decline at Imperial Gabii (Italy)
Top - Map of Sites
Bottom - Gabine Plain

Background: Urbanism in Latium

The ancient city of Gabii emerged in the late first millennium BC during a wave of urban explosion that also saw the rise of Rome just 12 miles away (Becker et al. 2009). Gabii grew to one of the largest cities in the area by virtue of its geographic location at the intersection of several important roadways. Rumored to be the place where Romulus and Remus were educated, Gabii was a cultural icon for centuries. By the late Republican period (1st century BC), literary references to Gabii concerned its depopulation and insignificance in civic life.

Little archaeological investigation was undertaken at Gabii until 2007. One of the surprising finds was a makeshift Imperial-era necropolis. Since Roman cemeteries were traditionally located outside the walls of a city (Cicero de Legibus ii, 23, 58; Toynbee 1971), one of the salient features of the collapse of Gabii as an urban center is the reuse of the city as a necropolis. The question remains: Who was buried at Gabii?

Gabii Cemetery
Top - Map of Area B
Bottom - Excavated Burial
(courtesy the Gabii Project)

Area B at Gabii corresponds to a domestic structure dating to the mid-Republican period, followed in the early Imperial period by burials that were likely purposefully made within the abandoned structure. The sequence of burials in Area B has not been fully refined, but carbon dating of bones from three graves suggests the burial program began in the late 1st/early 2nd century AD and continued through at least the 3rd century AD (Becker 2011).

Most of the burials in Area B are aligned roughly east-west, but others, like Tomb 8 (the “lead burrito”), are more north-south in orientation. Skeletons were interred in simple pits, in amphorae, and in cappuccina-style graves, consistent with burial forms found in other Rome-area necropoleis (Musco et al. 2008; Buccellato et al. 2008). However, three burials contained lead sheeting, a practice not well-attested in Roman graves. The lead burials are not included in this presentation, as they will be studied further this summer.

The total number of Imperial-period skeletons from Area B is 23 – 5 subadults under the age of two, 7 females, 8 males, and 3 adults of indeterminate sex.

Pathological Conditions

Gabii can be directly compared with three other cemeteries in use during the 1st-3rd centuries AD: Casal Bertone, Castellaccio Europarco, and Vallerano (Killgrove 2010; Cucina et al. 2006). Demographic data show that the Gabine burial population is quite different, however, with no subadults between 2-18 years of age. None of the five children examined had evidence of cribra orbitalia, compared to much higher crude prevalence rates at the other sites. Of the adults from Gabii, 14 presented teeth or jaws for analysis. The Gabine population had worse dental health in terms of true prevalence rates of caries, calculus, abscesses, and antemortem tooth loss (AMTL) than did the other three populations. In comparing these frequencies using Fisher’s exact test, Gabii is statistically different (p≤.01) than Casal Bertone and Vallerano in caries, abscesses, and AMTL, and different than Castellaccio Europarco in the latter two conditions. Gabii is similar to Casal Bertone and Castellaccio Europarco in frequency of degenerative joint disease: 67%, 76%, and 63% CPR, respectively.
Dental Disease at Gabii


The urban area of Rome boasted a very heterogeneous population during the Imperial period owing particularly to the importation of slaves from other areas of the Empire (Killgrove 2010). Attempts to characterize the skeletal health of this disparate population, however, are only just beginning, and most reports do not list methods or individual-level data. Based on the information available to date, the Gabii skeletal series is different than those from other cemeteries near Rome in terms of demographics and frequencies of dental disease.

Osteological investigation of the Gabine population suggests a burial program biased towards adults and young children, and palaeopathological investigation suggests consumption of different foodstuffs and/or more physical stress compared with other groups from the same area and time period. It is currently unclear whether these differences can be directly related to the collapse of the city of Gabii.

Analysis of this site and the skeletons is ongoing. Future research will involve biochemical testing to investigate the diet and the geographical and biological backgrounds of the Gabines.

This research was supported by the Gabii Project, an international archaeological initiative whose goal is to investigate the history of the ancient urban center. Thanks are extended to Nic Terrenato (Project Director), Jeffrey Becker (Managing Director), and Marcello Mogetta (Vice Field Director) for access to the skeletons, permission to use the cemetery map and burial photograph, and for information on the chronology of the burials.


Becker, J., Mogetta, M., & Terrenato, N. (2009). A New Plan for an Ancient Italian City: Gabii Revealed American Journal of Archaeology, 113 (4), 629-642 DOI: 10.3764/aja.113.4.629

Becker, J. 2011. Gabi. FASTI Online.

Buccellato, A. et al. 2008. La site et la necropole de Castellaccio. Les Dossiers d'Archeologie 330:14-9.

Cucina, A., Vargiu, R., Mancinelli, D., Ricci, R., Santandrea, E., Catalano, P., & Coppa, A. (2006). The necropolis of Vallerano (Rome, 2nd–3rd century AD): an anthropological perspective on the ancient Romans in theSuburbium International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 16 (2), 104-117 DOI: 10.1002/oa.808

Killgrove, K. 2010. Migration and mobility in Imperial Rome. PhD Dissertation, UNC Chapel Hill.

Musco, S. et al. 2008. Le complexe archeologique de Casal Bertone. Les Dossiers d'Archeologie 330:32-9.

Toynbee, J. 1971. Death and Burial in the Roman World. Johns Hopkins University Press.

April 11, 2012

Differential Diagnosis of an Unusual Lower Leg Pathology in an Imperial Roman

This week, I'm in Portland, Oregon, at the annual meetings of the Paleopathology Association and the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.  So in this post, I'm presenting my PPA poster.  After you read it, feel free to weigh in on the diagnosis using the poll and/or the comments.

(For those of you at the conference, I'm poster number 48 and will be hanging out, answering questions and chatting, from about 3-4pm in the Pavillion Ballroom West. Please stop by to say hi!)

Differential Diagnosis of an Unusual Lower Leg Pathology in an Imperial Roman

Background and Context

A suite of skeletal pathologies was discovered on the remains of an older adult male from Imperial Rome.

Location of Casal Bertone cemetery
Map by K. Killgrove (2012)
The cemetery of Casal Bertone dates to the 2nd-3rd centuries AD and was situated in a periurban area just outside the city walls of Rome. The burial program included a large necropolis with simple inhumations in pits and a cappuccina as well as an above-ground mausoleum with niches for single and multiple burial. Archaeologically associated with the cemetery are a large villa, a network of plumbing, and a 1,000-square-meter building with almost 100 tubs each one meter in diameter, likely a fullery for cleaning cloth (Musco et al. 2008).

Individual F10A (Male, 50+) was buried in a niche in the mausoleum, suggesting higher social status than those in the necropolis and/or membership in a funeral guild. No grave goods were found associated with him, however.  Over 75% of the skeleton was recovered from the burial.

Skeletal Pathologies

Top - L tibia; both fibulae
Middle - L navicular, cuboid, calcaneus
Bottom - L metatarsals, R metatarsals
Photographs by K. Killgrove (2007)
F10A had a number of pathological conditions. He lost most of his teeth antemortem. Significant arthritic changes (porosity, lipping, osteophytes) were noted in his TMJ, shoulder, elbow, hip, and knee joints, as well as in the thoracic and lumbar spine. No rhinomaxillary changes were seen.

The bones of his legs present pathologies inconsistent with solely age-related changes:
  • L tibia – remodeled periostitis of the postero-medial aspect of the shaft; posterior aspect thickened, with spicules of bone; no evidence of cloacae; tibia is heavier than normal; periostitis and osteophyte formation at fibular notch 
  • R/L fibulae – osteophyte formation on lateral aspect of proximal ends; periostitis on shafts; remodelling of distal ends 
  • Tarsals – osteophytes and porosity of L calcaneus, L navicular, and L cuboid (at the MT4/5 articulation)
  • Metatarsals – resorption of proximal end and destruction of head of L MT5; resorption and porosity at proximal end of two other L MTs; distal end of R MT1 significantly resorbed; resorptive foci in distal R MT5; additional resorptive changes in two other MTs, both proximally and distally
Differential Diagnosis

Several possible diseases could have caused lytic lesions to the feet and legs of F10A (Ortner 2003).
  • Leprosy – Erosive changes in the feet, particularly the tapering of the metatarsal heads, are similar to those seen in leprosy. The classic rhinomaxillary changes associated with leprosy were not seen in the skull, although F10A was missing most of his teeth. Leprosy is unlikely but cannot be ruled out. 
  • Sarcoidosis – Granulomatous bone lesions also occur in the phalanges with sarcoidosis, but the metatarsals are less often affected. F10A has only a few phalanges, but the distribution of lesions does not suggest a diagnosis of sarcoidosis. 
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis – Lytic lesions are common in RA, which often affects the skeleton symmetrically, especially the hands. F10A’s foot lesions are symmetrical and erosive, but tarsal and metatarsal joints are not commonly involved in RA. Still, RA or another erosive arthropathy cannot be ruled out (Killgrove 2010). 
  • Mycetoma – Multiple lytic foci characterize the skeletal involvement in this infection. Most often affected are the metatarsal, tarsal, and ankle joints, but the tibia and fibula can also become infected. The widespread, almost bubbly lytic lesions of F10A’s feet strongly suggest mycetoma.

Saltus fullonicus
Relief from the Museo della Civilta
Romana, taken by K. Killgrove (2007)
Mycetoma (or Madura foot) is a longstanding, progressive infection often found in populations that go barefoot and engage in agricultural work. It is endemic to the region between 15°S and 30°N latitude but has also been reported in southern Italy and Greece (Plehn 1928). Migration during the Roman Empire, including importation of slaves, means that pathogens were not necessarily confined to one location. 

The Roman fullery involved large tubs of caustic liquid, in which fullers would stamp cloth while barefoot–a task called the saltus fullonicus–which suggests a possible link between lower leg pathology and occupation. Yet mycetoma is difficult to diagnose in ancient remains. A possible case from 4th century AD Israel (Hershkovitz et al. 1992) was later found to have leprosy (Spigelman & Donoghue 2001). No such testing has been done on F10A to date.

Osteological data, archaeological context, and geographic location suggest a diagnosis of mycetoma for individual F10A, but it is difficult to conclusively rule out leprosy and rheumatoid arthritis.

Time for a poll!

What disease does this skeleton have?

pollcode.com free polls 

This research was supported by a grant from the NSF (BCS-0622452).  Thanks are extended to the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma for access to the skeleton.


Hershkovitz, I., Speirs, M., Katznelson, A., & Arensburg, B. (1992). Unusual pathological condition in the lower extremities of a skeleton from ancient Israel American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 88 (1), 23-26 DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.1330880103

Killgrove, K. 2010. Migration and mobility in Imperial Rome. PhD dissertation, UNC Chapel Hill.

Musco, S. et al. 2008. Le complexe archeologique de Casal Bertone. Les Dossiers d'Archeologie 330:32-9.

Ortner, D. 2003. Identification of Pathological Conditions in Human Skeletal Remains. Academic Press.

Plehn, A. 1928. Madurafuss. In Kolle & von Wasserman, eds., Handbuch der Pathogen Mikrooganismen, pp. 113-132.

Spigelman M, & Donoghue HD (2001). Brief communication: unusual pathological condition in the lower extremities of a skeleton from ancient Israel. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 114 (1), 92-3 PMID: 11150055 ResearchBlogging.org

April 6, 2012

Spring, Skeletons, and Easter

It's Eastertime, so I thought I'd highlight some pieces I wrote recently.  Read them when you're too stuffed with chocolate to do anything else (or when your kids have their inevitable sugar crash and conk out on the couch)...

For Good Friday, check out the Bioarchaeology of Crucifixion.  Made infamous because of the martyrdom of Jesus, this manner of death was practiced for centuries, but there is only one known example to be found in archaeology.  I address the scant evidence and the reasons that we haven't found more.

And on Sunday, check out The Curious Case of Easter Eggs.  Although it has suggested rebirth for millennia and has been associated with various religious and cultural traditions, the egg became a very potent religious symbol with the rise of Christianity.  I explore the origin of the tradition of Easter eggs, including the still unclear practice of burying eggs with children in early Christian Rome, and the urban myth that eggs only stand on end at the equinox.

The kind of eggs that were always on display at
my Grandma's at Easter (credit)

April 2, 2012

Bones - Season 7, Episode 7 (Review)

Welcome back, everyone!  Season 7 of Bones has returned following Emily Deschanel's real-life maternity leave.  She's noticeably fake-pregnant in this episode, and the birth scene is utterly cringe-worthy.  Let's get to it!

The Prisoner in the Pipe

Episode Summary
So there's this kid who looks to be at least 5 who won't poop in the potty without a kitten and an ice cream truck or something.  She lifts the lid and - bam! - is surprised by some floating body parts.  Cue staggered screaming from her father.

Meanwhile, Booth and Brennan are taking a tour of a local hospital.  Because you wait until your due date to do that.

At the kid's house, Brennan identifies an entire sphenoid and half a maxilla, but there's no mention of the hilarious toe floater from the first scene.  The Jeffersonian team figures that all the bones are from one person, since there's no duplication (MNI = 1).  From the maxillary sinus, Brennan assesses the skeleton as male.  She also notices a lens implant in the eye, which Saroyan excises and Angela traces to Rob Lazebnik, a man in Jamestown prison for perpetrating a Ponzi scheme.

Brennan and Booth investigate a murder at a prison (credit: FOX)
The Jeffersonian team attempt to figure out what caused Lazebnik's death.  The ocular fluid has a negative tox screen.  A fragment of the right 9th rib has striations consistent with a stab wound, but Brennan can't conclude from just this one bone that the man was stabbed.  Hodgins sends a robot into the sewer, and he and Daisy find more pieces of the dead man.  Daisy notices some remodeling of fractures to the manubrium, the left clavicle, and two upper ribs.  These breaks occurred more than a year ago, around the time Lazebnik entered prison.  Angela reconstructs the skeleton, and Daisy notes a nick on the anterior portion of the first lumbar vertebra.  This suggests a stabbing, if a 3.75" object went through a doubled-over Lazebnik and slit his inferior vena cava. The body was likely dismembered using acid, as Daisy finds micropitting on the bones.  They also realize that Lazebnik was killed in prison and dumped into the sewer, which sends Booth and Brennan to Jamestown to see what they can find out.

B&B meet with one guard and the warden.  Both are creepy, but not killers.  Because of the micropitting, they suspect that Lazebnik was dismembered with hydrochloric acid, which is being used in the mailbox-making facility on the prison grounds.  They talk to the head of the operation (whose name I didn't catch), but even though his parents were swindled out of money by Lazebnik, he didn't kill him.  They also find the shiv that likely killed him.  Brennan starts having contractions, but Angela finds another clue: from the paper that made up the shiv, she reconstructs a recipe from a prison cookbook.  Brennan takes a crappy cell-phone picture of fingerprints she got by dusting the cookbook with cocoa, and Angela runs them through the Jamestown database: Hayes Jackson, who works in the kitchen and befriended Lazebnik, eventually killed him.  Because Hodgins found prison-grade rubber in the bones, Brennan chases Jackson asking to see his shoes, because four weeks after a murder, there would still be tiny bone fragments in them.  She goes into labor in the middle of a prison fight.

This being TV, Brennan is going to give birth immediately.  She can't make it 10 miles to the hospital.  So Booth pulls over at a swanky B&B, but the proprietor turns them away.  He relents and lets them use the stable.  Cue ridiculous and utterly unnecessary Christian overtones.  Brennan pushes, and Booth delivers the baby.  They gaze at the baby, not bothering to warm her up or nurse her.

It's unclear if they go to the hospital, since Brennan is wearing the exact same clothes, but the Jeffersonian team is waiting for them at home.  In the dark.  Because they're unafraid of an FBI agent shooting them.  It's actually kind of endearing that they put up a banner with Welcome Stapes.  They name the baby Christine, after Brennan's mother (and, you know, after Jesus himself, because of course an anthropologist who thinks religion is stupid would name her baby that).

Forensic Comments
  • The opening scene had me laughing out loud.  The toe was somehow connected to a... metatarsal?  I dunno, but it certainly wasn't a proximal first foot phalanx.  Then the toe disappeared when Brennan went through an inventory of pieces.
  • And, hey, can an entire sphenoid fit through a toilet drain?  I had a frog come up through mine once. So I actually feel for the poor little poo-shy girl.  It's been two years, and I still turn the light on if I get up in the middle of the night.  But the frog was tiny.  Sphenoids are huge.  And funny-shaped.
  • Why didn't Saroyan have a strainer to get the eye out of the toilet?  That's just piss-poor planning (pun alert!).
  • Brennan was really reaching for a sex estimation: maxillary sinus?  Wouldn't, I dunno, tooth size be better than that?  I know that those sinuses can work almost as fingerprints, but sex estimation from the maxillary sinus is only like 70% accurate.
  • I wouldn't let anyone put rose water on bones.  Especially not in a murder investigation.  I don't care if it's "inert."  Poor judgment, Miss Wick.
  • The ends of the clavicle are medial (towards the midline) and lateral (towards the arm), not "distal" as Daisy said.
  • Why did Lazebnik, clearly a white-collar criminal, go to a maximum security prison?
  • Cocoa powder?  And a crappy cell phone picture?  Really?  That would stand up in a court of law? (And those prints would even be there after 4 weeks? Along with the teeny bone fragments in Jackson's shoes?)
Dialogue and Drama
  • I hate TV baby-birthing scenes.  They seem to all be written by men who have never attended an actual birth.  Anyway, many of my complaints can be summed up with this link to Angela's birthing episode.
  • But really, Brennan's labor was way too fast (car baby!).  She didn't warm the baby up afterward.  She didn't immediately put the baby to her breast.  These are things you learn in birthing class.  And, well, as an anthropologist.  At least they smeared the 3-month-old newborn stand-in with jelly. (Guesses at to whether it was Deschanel's real baby, Henry?)
  • I simply cannot get over the manger-birth scene and the fact Brennan named her baby after Jesus, immediately following her complaints about baptism, religion, and mythologies.  Do the writers hate Brennan?  Because they're writing her as compromising more and more of her principles every episode.
  • Let's talk about the characters' appearances back from hiatus... Deschanel's hair is sooooo shiny.  I remember when my hair was that shiny thanks to prenatal vitamins.  And is it me, or did John Francis Daley gain some weight?

Forensic Mystery - C-.  So, they got the victim's name from his corneal implant.  And they knew he was stabbed pretty early on.  There wasn't much mystery here.

Forensic Solution - B-.  Most of the forensic work didn't stretch the imagination too much.  The cocoa fingerprints were suspicious, though.

Drama - D.  Manger.  'nuff said.

I am vaguely interested to see what happens next week.  Angela and Hodgins' baby was featured for, like, two episodes (but didn't even make an appearance at the B&B baby homecoming in this one!), but this baby is the product of the two main characters, so I'm curious how the writers will handle it.

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