April 26, 2014

Teaching Public Engagement in Anthropology - Blogging Archaeology eBook

At today's #blogarch panel at the SAAs, Chris Webster and Doug Rocks-Macqueen announced their edited volume, Blogging Archaeology, which includes a contribution from yours truly entited "Teaching Public Engagement in Anthropology."  My piece is essentially a long-form blog post that takes a look at my Presenting Anthropology grad proseminar from last spring.  I hadn't written an overall blog post about the course, which I blogged and tweeted about at the time, so I took this opportunity to talk about what worked and what didn't work.

You can read the whole ebook with the fancy embedded doc below, or download the PDF:

Thanks to Chris's and Doug's hard work, this volume is awesome.  Do check it out.  Loads of good contributions.  I'm just sorry I missed the #blogarch session, since I had to come back from SAA early.

April 25, 2014

Who needs an osteologist? (Installment 13)

Abbot House in the UK needs an osteologist...

Although they seem to have one, shown in the picture. And maybe the lower legs had to be laid out wrong for... Space purposes? No, there's just no reason for the fibulae to be medial. And the radii and ulnae are wrong. Anyway, this quote is also curious:
“The teeth of the older man were in a bad state with most of them missing, indicating a rough diet and muscle markers on his skeleton suggest he did a very labour-intensive job involving lots of lifting. 
“The younger man has a fantastic skull and quite a feminine jawline and has better teeth. There is nothing indicating any diseases or injuries so trying to work out his cause of death is difficult but we think it must have been something short-lived like a fever or a bad cold. 
“He also has a lot of genetic traits such as a hole in his sternum and a missing molar.”
Maybe that part can be chalked up to a bad reporter?

(Thanks to Mindy Pitre for the heads up.)

Previous installments of Who needs an osteologist?

April 21, 2014

Bones - Season 9, Episode 22 (Review)

The Nail in the Coffin
Episode Summary
A family out camping has a corpse fall on them. Saroyan calls Booth but asks Brennan to stay home, since she thinks there may be a Ghost Killer link.  Brennan disobeys and comes to the scene anyway. Edison, who is on the scene first, notes the lack of a prominent glabella, suggesting the victim was female.  Based on predation, blowflies, and road beetles, Hodgins estimates she's been dead 8 to 10 days. Brennan immediately looks for an avulsion fracture on the third distal phalanx of the right hand, but Edison points out that all the fingertips have avulsion fractures. Traces of adhesive show that the victim had real nails affixed to her own. 

"Guys, is this really the best time to play 'Stand, Sit, Bend'?"
Back at the Jeffersonian, the team finds multiple sharp force traumas as well as blunt force trauma, mostly to the thorax. Brennan notes the forward jutting of the mandible and hazards a guess: the victim was Stephanie MacNamara, Trent's sister.  He too had mandibular prognathism. Saroyan tests Stephanie's tissue and finds evidence of a homemade anesthetic made from common plants. Booth and Brennan go to question the MacNamaras' gardener, who doesn't seem to have noticed the scratch marks, blood, and heel marks indicating a struggle, both old and recent, in the horse stable. Stephanie had been locked in the stable as a kid and had clawed at the wall, irreparably breaking her nails. There are also 16 separate sharp force traumas to her torso and neck, a more violent crime than the other Ghost Killer victims. The gardener denies killing Stephanie, but Brennan notices a slight prognathism on her as well. She suggests that the gardener may be Giles MacNamara's illegitimate child, who would then stand to inherit the fortune. 

The fingernails match the DNA of all the other suspected victims of the Ghost Killer.  Angela runs a bunch of files that the FBI obtained from the SEC, which had been investigating the MacNamaras for years, and found that the victims matched up with Stephanie MacNamara's travel records.  She was the Ghost Killer, and she took the nails from her victims to replace her own, which she lost through abuse by her father. The final fingernail they found on Stephanie matched an old murder: Maya Zinkow, a girl who went to school with them and Hodgins, and whose murder was pinned on high school teacher Herman Kessler. The Jeffersonian is allowed to exhume Maya's remains, which are mummified. Brennan sees clearly that she had multiple stab wounds.  The coroner's report, however, does not note them, and the body was never given to the family or to a funeral home. The ME who signed off on it was the same one who did Lara Brewster's (S09E12) postmortem (and who had been paid off by Giles MacNamara). The wounds to Zinkow's body are very similar to the ones to Stephanie's body, suggesting Kessler was behind this as a revenge killing for being wrongly incarcerated for 20 years.  Saroyan finds evidence of a rape in Zinkow's cervix and vaginal tissue; she then finds sperm and gets a DNA match: Giles MacNamara raped Maya Zinkow. Stephanie was in a way jealous of Maya for getting her father's attention, so she killed Maya.  Giles found out and covered it up so that he would not get in trouble. 

Meanwhile, Booth tries to find Kessler because documents in his apartment suggest he wasn't planning to kill just Stephanie MacNamara. The other blueprints are traced to the home of a congressman, who 20 years ago was the judge who convicted Kessler. The entire time he was in prison, Kessler knew that Giles MacNamara was behind the coverup.  Brennan and Saroyan work on Congressman Palter's body and find similar wounds to those on Stephanie and Maya. Various nicks to the ribs suggest the shape of the murder weapon: Angela's fancy computer says it's a tobacco scythe, which fits with the trace evidence of tobacco that Hodgins found on Stephanie and Palter. Old pesticide and asbestos suggest to Brennan that Kessler may be hiding out in an old cigarette manufacturing building. Booth and Brennan head to the condemned Old Dominion Cigarettes building and find Kessler about to hang himself.  Brennan tries to get him to talk, since he clearly knew something about an FBI agent who was working for or paid off by MacNamara 20 years ago.  Kessler decides to jump, but Booth shoots down his rope.  Booth and Brennan later celebrate having solved the Ghost Killer murders.

  • Forensic
    • "... this is a rare genetic marker known as prognathism."  Oh, Bones.  This is why I can't quit you.  I suppose to be fair, there is a form of mandibular prognathism that is pathological and tends to be heritable, but it also tends to be really dramatic, along the lines of acromegaly. But jeez, prognathism is a massive continuum, and large chunks of the human population have what we call prognathism.  It is a bit of a loaded term, since it is commonly associated with the racial classification Black and was used historically to attempt to show that blacks were closer evolutionarily to apes than were whites (e.g., this drawing).  There are probably other observable heritable conditions they could have given the family, like, I dunno, clubfoot or something.  So no, this feature cannot confirm a familial link much less an ID of a victim.  Also, slight prognathism wouldn't suggest that the gardener's father was Giles MacNamara.  Just ugh.
    • So Clark finds 10 tiny avulsion fractures to the tiny distal phalanges (in the field, without a hand lens, of course) and yet the only method he uses to estimate sex is the lack of a prominent glabella?  Come on. There are at least four other markers on the skull alone, not to mention the entire pelvis.
    • Maaaaaybe I could buy that Maya Zinkow's mummified corpse still showed evidence of a rape, but sperm?  Sperm that could give a DNA match?  Puh-lease.
  • Plot
    • Do the horse stalls never get hosed out?  Why is blood still there from, like, 20 years ago?
    • Why did Stephanie take the same fingernail from each victim when she was trying to replace her 10 fingernails?  I guess the third fingernail could be shaped and filed down for the smaller ones, but not for the thumb.  Also, did she put the nails on herself, or did Kessler?  If the former, how did she not lose any nails in 20 years?
    • I do like how Booth just decides to go in alone to a creepy old warehouse with a serial killer in it.  And lets Brennan, who is unarmed and his wife/mother of his child, follow him in.  Because that's totally safe.
    • Wait, who killed Trent?  Stephanie or Kessler?  If the former, why?  She was given a motive for murder, sort of, but there was no explanation for how/why she chose her victims.  And she'd never killed a man. And we're fairly certain someone killed Trent, right, since he was missing a fingernail?  What were the similar injuries Brennan saw to the sterna of two of the victims (some sort of puncture wound)?  Why was there a pattern with some, but not with others (e.g., Lana was drowned, Trent was shot)?  So confused. It's honestly like the writers were gearing up for a Big Bad this season but then got tired and half-assed the rest of the season.
    • There's still someone rotten at the FBI, right?  Is the deputy director trying to send Booth to Germany because it's him?  What does Kessler know, and will he tell anyone?
  • Dialogue
    • I swear, "This is a rare genetic marker known as prognathism" will henceforth be bandied about in my household as often as we say, "It's a Unix system!  I know this!"  Glad that Mr. Dr. PbO and I both have such terribly fictionalized professions.  (Also, I really want an animated GIF complete with subtitles of Brennan saying the prognathism line.  Someone make it so!)

Forensic Mystery - C.  Each new finding was quickly figured out. I know this is a procedural, but it really felt like it this week.

Forensic Solution - C. The solution mostly came from the FBI getting a bunch of files, Angela doing some fancy computer work, and Saroyan finding magical undead sperm.

Drama - C-. I was looking forward to the Ghostface Killah episodes.  And then they just up and dispatch her?  Lame.

April 15, 2014

Who needs an osteologist? (Installment 12)

Came across this blog post on the so-called salt mummies of Iran, which has pictures of the mummies on display in the Zanjan Museum... which seems to need an osteologist.  These are two shots of one mummy, from the feet and from the head.  Check out the tibiae/fibulae and humeri.  Those are wonky, no?

Saltman no. 2 , currently on display in Zanjan Musem.
By Mardetanha (Own work) 
or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], 
via Wikimedia Commons

Saltman no. 2 , currently on display in Zanjan Musem.
By Mardetanha (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0
or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)],
via Wikimedia Commons

Previous installments of Who needs an osteologist?

April 14, 2014

Bones - Season 9, Episode 21 (Review)

The Cold in the Case
Episode Summary
A body is found in a swampy area in a new subdivision.  Brennan concludes based on the vertical frontal bone and mental eminence of the mandible that the body belonged to a female in her mid-30s. The prominent maxilla apparently means to Brennan that she was Caucasian. Animals seem to have eaten the hands and feet but curiously not the meatier parts. Brennan notes extensive fracturing to the bones but does not think it relates to blunt force trauma. Time of death, though, is all over the place: Piophilidae suggest 72-96 hours, but Calliphoridae larvae suggest the last 3 hours, while the crystomamarufifithes (seriously, Hodgins, please enunciate so that I can look stuff up properly) puts it in the last 14 days.

"Maybe somewhere in here there's a bone that
will tell me age so that I can stop guessing randomly."
Back at the Jeffersonian, Brennan finds something lodged between the left maxillary second incisor and canine. Saroyan finds tissue unrelated to the victim. Vaziri and Brennan see on xray a remodelling injury to the right posterior superior iliac crest (sic) from a large-bore needle.  Brennan thinks the victim may have donated bone marrow approximately a year ago.  Apparently the bone marrow registry is magical, and Madeline Papadelis is the only Caucasian female in her 30s who donated bone marrow in the last year.  Madeline was divorced and her daughter, Corine, succumbed to cystic fibrosis 18 months prior. She also had a restraining order against her ex-husband.  Booth brings him in to question him; the ex admits to waving around a gun while cleaning it, but denies ever wanting to hurt Madeline.

Hodgins somehow deduces from the fabric in Madeline's teeth that she was given chloroform. The fibers on her back were rayon and silk, a blend popular in sleeping bags. The DNA from the extra tissue comes back as being fox tongue. Saroyan thinks that the damage to Madeline's organs was caused by fracturing.  Brennan starts a histological study, and she and Vaziri conclude that Madeline wasn't frozen normally, which would cause ice crystals to form in the body and damage cells. Rather, she was likely cryogenically frozen.   Booth checks Madeline's credit cards and finds that she mostly used them to buy bus passes.  She was regularly travelling to Vienna, Virginia, where Cryonova was located. 

Booth and Brennan head to Cryonova and meet Dr. Noah Summers and his wife Michelle. They confirm that Madeline's daughter Corine was one of their patients. She used to come every Saturday to visit her daughter, and she and Noah worked closely on grant proposals to help fund the facility. Originally, Madeline was going to use a competing cryonicist, Trip Warshaw, but backed out.  He admits that his equipment was recently repossessed, as he was going out of business, but has a solid alibi for the time of Madeline's death and disappearance. The Summerses claim that Warshaw shot up the facility as an attempt at sabotage, but he denies this.The shots were actually from a gun similar to one Madeline's ex-husband Ethan had. He admits to shooting open the door to the facility, but he simply wanted to get Corine's body to bury her.  He couldn't figure out how to get her out of the storage dewar, though. Although Ethan did study pre-med in school, Booth finally concludes that he didn't do it.

Angela goes through the emails and security footage from Cryonova.  She finds video evidence that Dr. Summers was chopping up a frozen body and selling organs.  Summers admits to this; the man in question was frozen but his wife ran out of money.  He preserved the man's brain and sold off his organs. He claims Madeline knew this, so that's not what they were arguing about on the video footage.  Brennan and Vaziri find some more interesting things on the skeleton.  First, some flaking of the cortical bone on the tibia, metatarsals, and tarsals of one leg suggest whoever froze Madeline was either in a rush or had faulty equipment. Second, they find evidence of multifilament thread, the kind used for stitches. There is also a hole in the side of the head with curved, smooth edges. Brennan thinks that this is where the crack-phone was placed, to listen for cracking when freezing the brain. Angela finds the audio file, on which Michelle Summers can be heard calling Madeline a bitch and saying that Noah was hers. Booth questions Michelle, but she lawyers up. Finally, Brennan pieces it all together.  The bevelling on the hole in the temporal bone suggests a left-handed person made the cut. The style of stitches that Noah Summers made is also quite distinctive: interrupted vertical mattress sutures tied left-handed with a surgical knot.  These stitches are found on bodies Noah processed... and I guess on the thread they found on the body?  At any rate, they confirm he is left-handed.  Noah Summers confesses to having drugged then frozen Madeline; he was in love with her, but she did not reciprocate.  When Michelle found Madeline's body during her search to find space for several new bodies, she decided to dispose of her.

  • Forensic
    • Oh, are you kidding me with the demographic ID?  Brennan just guesses mid-30s based on... nothing?  Lazy.  Vertical frontal bone is not really a sexually dimorphic trait.  Mental eminence, sure, that's fine.  And I don't know what they mean by prominent maxilla, because really prominent would mean prognathic, which would be African-American, not Caucasian.  Yeesh.
    • Kinda handy that the victim was the only female in her mid-30s to have a bone marrow aspiration a year ago.  I mean, it's not like there are millions of other people in the U.S. in the bone marrow donation database who would fit that profile.  And I'm not a medical doctor, so I don't know... can bone marrow donations help or cure cystic fibrosis?
    • Hodgins mentions that the fiber in the victim's teeth is from chloroform.... which is not a fabric. (I actually rewound it to make sure that's what he said.)
    • It's the posterior superior iliac spine, not crest.
  • Plot
    • I did kinda like the image of the small animals getting their tongues stuck to the victim's remains.  I don't think that would happen, though.  I mean, if she's so frozen their tongues get stuck, she's probably too frozen to smell like food.
    • Vaziri and Saroyan had some issues with his parents.
    • Booth may be asked to head up a field office in Germany.  Brennan thinks this is awesome, but Booth doesn't seem to want the job.
  • Dialogue
    • I got nothing... except a whole bunch of shouting in Persian.  Anyone?  Real Persian or Google translate Persian?

Forensic Mystery - C+.  Having the husband do it was a bit of a twist. And creepy.

Forensic Solution - D.  Age-at-death was glossed over.  Sex and ancestry were both iffy.

Drama - F. Yaaaaaaawn. Holy pete, this was the most boring episode I can recall.  I mean, look at those bullet points up there.  Nothing to comment on at all. Maybe Ghost Face Killah will be good next week?

April 10, 2014

Who needs a classicist? (Installment 2)

Oh come on, Slate.  I would expect this from Buzzfeed, but not you.

Dictionary entry for Slate headline-writing-intern

Previous installments of Who needs a classicist?

April 7, 2014

Bones - Season 9, Episode 20 (Review)

The High in the Low
Episode Summary
As police chase an escaped criminal, the man finds a dead body in a hollow log he's attempting to hide in.  He freaks out.  Brennan and Booth, who are at a shooting range so Booth can practice for his shooty-runny-thinky FBI exam, get the call about the body and head out to Great Falls National Park which, amazingly, is actually close to D.C. The body has been shoved into a tree stump two miles from the nearest road. Most of the bugs are residents of the log, but the fungi on the clothing suggests to Hodgins that the victim has been dead less than a year. The bones are riddled with holes from a preexisting pathology, but they are also being eaten by termites, who like bones for their nitrogen content. Based on the sharp nasal sill, Brennan concludes that the victim was Caucasian, and based on the presence of a ventral arc, she concludes the victim was female.

"... and this here's my very poorly-dressed partner..."
At the Jeffersonian, Hodgins narrows time-of-death down to four months ago based on Aspergillus spores and Stachybotrys chartarum. Erosive lesions on the metacarpophalangeal joints and remodelled vertebral fractures make Brennan think the victim had lupus.  Saroyan runs the victim's DNA but does not get a match. Angela uses the Jeffersonian's new holographic facial reconstruction system to create a model of the victim from her skull.  She gets a hit in the missing persons database: Abby Briggs.

Booth questions Abby's sister, who confirms that Abby was suffering from lupus, but that she managed to control her pain by using medical marijuana. She even got a job at the Full Health Wellness Center, a dispensary. Booth and Brennan got to the center to talk to Dr. Richard Burke. He doesn't think that anyone would hurt Abby, but the security guard mentions a student at Fulton University who was mad that Abby wouldn't take his fake medical marijuana card.  Booth questions Adam the college student, but he insists he did not do it. He simply wanted to celebrate winning the Fulton Emerging Writers Award but couldn't get any weed; he was treated for injured ribs around the time Abby went missing, but claims it resulted from the security guard getting physical with him. Sweets takes a look at Abby's sketch book and notes that she was clearly creeped out by the security guard, who seemed to like her. 

Meanwhile, a bunch of perimortem fractures are found on Abby's body: there's a Monteggia's fracture to the proximal left ulna, diffuse blunt force trauma to the right ulna and to the ascending ramus of the right mandible in a curvilinear shape.  Brennan thinks that the weapon used might have been the security guard's heavy flashlight, but a test with a similar model does not fit.  Further fractures are found: one to the superior aspect of the left clavicle, which has a V-shaped cleft.

Booth checks into Abby's credit card statements and finds she bought a lot of camping equipment.  Based on the bug from Virginia pines and the pollen from spear thistle found in Abby's lungs, they head to a particular part of the national park and quickly find remains of her campsite along with a grove of marijuana plants, half of which have been taken. They find that those plants had greater medicinal effects and lower toxication effects, making them good for medical marijuana users but inadequate for recreational users looking to get high. Abby was dealing pot out of the dispensary.

Finally, Brennan finds a nick to the right greater cornu of the hyoid, suggesting Abby's carotid artery was cut.  This makes the team immediately think of Dr. Burke, who as a doctor would know where and how to slice the carotid, but he has a rock-solid alibi. After finding a microscopic, cross-shaped puncture along the curvilinear fracture on the mandible, Brennan figures it out: the weapon used was round on top and triangular (inverted cone) on the bottom.  Angela comes up with the Fulton University Emerging Writers Award trophy.  Adam confesses to the murder.  He wanted more pot and followed Abby to the forest.  He claims he just wanted to knock her out, but he killed her then took some of her pot.  He never returned for the rest because it didn't get his customers high. 

In the end, Booth does well on his shooty-runny-thinking FBI thing, and Wendell is fired because of marijuana and then hired back as a consultant.

  • Forensic
    • I guess if Brennan's going to figure out ancestry and sex from one trait each, she picked the right ones: a sharp nasal sill is usually Caucasian, and the presence of a ventral arc is almost guaranteed to be female.  
    • It's not lupus!  (Oh wait, it is.)
    • Angela introduces the 3D Holographic Emulation Outlet (THEO for short).  But I'm positive they had a holographic thingamabob in past seasons.  It projected a victim getting killed from various angles.  (I can't immediately find it, so help me out?)
    • Missing persons hit on a hologram... I guess...
    • I really hate how the writers dole out the trauma to the bone at various times.  Like Brennan and Wendell just looked at one bone, drew some conclusions, chased some leads, and then decided to look at a second bone.  Just do all the damn trauma analysis at once, please?
  • Plot
    • This time on Bones Writers Don't Know Virginia - It is not illegal for kids to trick-or-treat on Halloween.  It is illegal for kids over 12 in some cities in Virginia to trick-or-treat. [Washington Times] I grew up in VA.  I went trick-or-treating plenty.  I did know, however, that we were not allowed to wear masks once we hit a certain age.  These laws have been on the books since the 1970s, ostensibly to protect people from getting their houses trashed, from getting scared by roving bands of teenagers with masks, etc.  But hey, it's totally believable that this sort of law would exist in a state that used to celebrate Lee-Jackson-King Day.
    • Why did the college kid move Abby's body?  I guess because it was near the pot plants?  But he dragged her pretty damned far. And then stuffed her in a log.  That takes a lot of effort... especially for a pot-head.
    • Awwww, Wendell has a giant wall-mounted CD rack.  That's so... quaint.
  • Dialogue

Forensic Mystery - C. Couldn't get too excited about this.

Forensic Solution - B-.  Reasonable solutions all around. But boring.

Drama - D. Eh.  I like Wendell, I do.  But his hangdog face about medical marijuana was too much to take.

April 3, 2014

Creativity in Osteology Labs

As I mentioned in my "Hyoidkus" post, I've taken the opportunity afforded by teaching Human Osteology at a new institution to overhaul old labs and create spiffy new ones that attempt to engage students' abilities to think both rationally and creatively.  Here are some of the creative activities from the last three labs, with the best among student responses to each...

In your lab write-up, include a paragraph describing – using as precise anatomical terminology as possible – the upper body (arm and/or hand) motions necessary to dance either the Macarena (video here) or Gangnam Style (video here).
La Macarena: Abduct the right arm anteriorly followed by the left so that on each hand the fingers are extended, the palm is inferiorly facing, and the thumb is medial. Then supinate the right forearm followed by the left so that each palm is superiorly facing and the thumbs are lateral. Next, flex the right arm so that the supinated right palm makes contact with the left shoulder and the right distal arm crosses the anterior thorax transversely. Then, flex the left arm so that the supinated left palm makes contact with the right shoulder and the left distal arm crosses the anterior thorax transversely. 
Abduct the flexed right arm superolaterally while pronating the right hand so that the right palm makes contact with the occipital of the cranium. Then abduct the flexed left arm superolaterally while pronating the left hand so that the left palm makes contact with the occipital of the cranium. Next, adduct and extend the right arm anteriorly so that the right arm crosses the body ventrally and the pronated right palm makes contact with the left anterior hip. Follow by adducting and extending the left arm anteriorly so that the left arm crosses the body ventrally and the pronated left palm makes contact with the right anterior hip. Then, flex and abduct the right arm posterolaterally while supinating the right hand so that the palm makes contact with the right posterior hip. Finally, flex and abduct the left arm while supinating the left hand so that the palm makes contact with the left posterior hip.   (Author: Lynn S.) 

Being as specific as possible, write a paragraph using anatomical terminology to describe the lower-body movements in either the Electric Slide (video here) or Twerking (video here).
Twerking: Stand with your feet spread slightly larger than shoulder-width apart, with your metatarsals pointed at an angle away from each other.  Squat down far enough that your patella is further than your toes are in an outward direction. Alternate thrusting (yes, I said thrusting) your pelvic girdle anteriorly as well as pushing it posteriorly. Your ischium should be pointing at an angle superiorly when you push it posteriorly (as in towards the sky). Alternate what levels of height you choose to thrust your pelvic girdle at. You may also lean dominantly on one femur/patella/tibia/fibula/tarsals/phalanges (lower appendage) from time to time, allowing a different range of motion. Altogether this dance will create strong gluteus maximus as well as strong thigh and calf muscles. For best results, do this fast. If you want to include upper appendages, do this dance while in a hand stand against a door or wall.     (Author: Alicia B.)
Write a limerick about the pelvis.
There once was a dead man named William
whose dog was eating his ilium.
The dog, named Anubis,
then moved to the pubis,
before starting on the ischium. (Author: Cade K.)
Write an acrostic about the femur.
F emurs are as hard as brick,
E veryone has two, no matter who you pick.
M uscles attached to it include the pectineus and the gemellus superior.
U nder the pelvis it lies; to the os coxae it is inferior.
R ealize now that this acrostic is also a limerick.  (Author: Ryan R.)
I don't, unfortunately, have any pictures of the play-doh bones they made -- one assignment was to make a scapula, and the other was to make a subadult femur, with the primary and secondary ossification centers (diaphysis and epiphyses) in two different colors. Most of them did very well with the femora; the scapulae were super tricky.

These are much more interesting to read and grade than plain lab reports.  I hope that these sorts of exercises get the students thinking about the skeleton in a slightly different way.

April 2, 2014

Bones - Season 9, Episode 19 (Review)

The Turn in the Urn
Episode Summary
Booth and Brennan attend a funeral for Todd Mirga, a billionaire Romani hedgefund manager who funded Brennan's research in the past and was found in his safe room, having OD'ed on heroin. During the funeral, however, Todd shows up and claims that he was out of the country in rehab for his heroin problem. The team scans images of the dead body and notes that, when the body was found three weeks after death, the face was swollen and unrecognizable, and the body had no ID on it. Todd's mother had the body cremated, so Brennan wants to know who is in the urn.

"I am completely confident this is Mesopotamian and from
3000 BC, rather than Greek and from 300 BC. Publication, please!"
Brennan and her team start picking through the cremains at the Jeffersonian. Because of the inept job of the crematorium, the fragments are much larger than normal. Based on the shape, thickness, and textured lip of an ilium fragment, Brennan guesses the cremains are from a male in his mid-30s.  However, she and Finn quickly find duplicates, meaning the MNI (minimum number of individuals) of their sample is more than one. In fact, there are at least three individuals represented: most of the cremains are the 30-something male, but there is also a bone whose degree of ossification suggests mid-to-late 70s, and one tooth whose cementum apposition suggests early 20s.

Using a fancy new algorithm she created, Angela does a facial regression to attempt to see what the victim in the safe room actually looked like before his bloated corpse was found.  Based on a DMV match, the victim was Daniel Barr. Two teeth among the cremains positively ID him. Daniel was Todd's lifestyle concierge, helping him by doing things like booking travel and procuring antiquities. Todd doesn't know why the security cameras in his safe room were off at the time Daniel died.

Hodgins finds soil on Daniel's body, that's somehow made it through the cremation. The soil is unique to the Hateo Plain of inner Mongolia, because of course it is.  Daniel does not have a rap sheet, but Todd's mother has a huge one.  Booth brings her in to the FBI for questioning, but she asserts it's ethnic profiling because she's Romani.  She points the finger at Sarah Metzler, Todd's girlfriend.  Sarah is interviewed, and she swears she didn't kill Daniel.

Brennan and Finn continue to look for evidence in the cremains.  They find a part of the occipital with a fracture that cannot be attributed to heat-induced fracturing from cremation.  Rather, it's evidence of blunt trauma. Particulates on the occipital include crystals and a piece of carved narwhal tusk. Radiometric dating puts the tusk at about 1,000 years old. For some reason, this makes Brennan assume that Daniel was after the Schlächter Kelch, the google translate result for Slaughterer's Chalice.  The chalice was supposedly from the Land of Punt, which is south of Egypt and therefore doesn't explain either the random German name or the Mongolian dirt in the least. But it does lead them to Satima Najar, clearly the world's worst antiquities expert, since she (and Brennan) thinks an Attic (or possibly Apulian) red-figure lekanis is a "Mesopotamian sacrificial basin" (See Who needs a classicist?). Brennan threatens Najar because the so-called sacrificial basin was looted from a museum in Iraq, but nothing comes of that.  Najar admits that Daniel contacted her to help procure the Slaughterer's Chalice, but she refused.  Brennan thinks that Daniel was killed with the chalice.

Hodgins for some odd reason cannibalizes a bunch of Jeffersonian exhibits in order to make a crystal cathode diffractometer, because apparently the SEM and mass specs aren't good enough to find diamonds?  He finds diamond dust that doesn't match with the crystals from the ancient artifact whose particles were embedded in Daniel's bones.  Brennan has the crematorium equipment shipped to the Jeffersonian for further investigation. They find some of the missing parts of the victim in the cremulator (which is, ironically enough, my superhero name) and retort, and from the extra occipital pieces, Brennan is certain that cause of death was blunt force trauma to the occipital with the chalice. However, Finn notices recent but healing projectile trauma to the inferior margin of the scapula. Daniel was shot about 2 weeks before his death, and from the metal melted into the trabeculae, Hodgins finds a cupronickel residue from an antique bullet shot by a Colt semiautomatic pistol prototype. Todd, of course, had purchased one 6 weeks ago, before Daniel was killed.

A tox screen on Daniel's remaining tissue comes up positive for heroin, and Todd admits to Booth that they were high when playing with the antique gun. Daniel getting shot was an accident, though. After Booth suggests that Todd killed Daniel with the chalice, Todd confesses upon learning about the diamond dust they found. But Hodgins also finds resin from a female lac bug, which can be found in nail polish. Angela remembers a news story about a million dollar manicure. They find the auction results for the manicure, and one of the three people who got one was Sarah Metzler.  Todd confessed to save Sarah.  She admits that she was angry at Daniel, who didn't want Todd to get clean. She managed to procure the Slaughterer's Chalice as a surprise for Todd, but got into a fight with Daniel about drugs and whacked him with it.

  • Forensic
    • When Brennan dumps the cremains into the electrostatic trap, they're surprisingly grey. I haven't had much experience with modern cremains, but they're never a uniform color like that.  The ones they show later, when she and Finn are picking through them, are more like what I've seen before.
    • Not sure what a "textured lip" of the ilium is. Maybe they mean the auricular surface?  Its height can tell you sex, and its structure can give you age-at-death information.  But it's higher in females than in males, so if "textured" means "higher," then Brennan's sex estimation is wrong.
    • Also not sure what "degree of ossification" means for adults.  In subadults, ossification refers to the fusion of the epiphyses with the diaphysis, which happens throughout adolescence. But you see the opposite as we get older as bone loss takes over.  That's not really degree of ossification, though; it's more degree of degeneration or osteoporosis.
    • Cementum apposition, on the other hand, is a valid (if not terribly precise or reliable) indicator of age-at-death.
    • Brennan mentions that two teeth confirmed Daniel's ID, but she doesn't explain how -- very unique fillings?
    • I am glad that the really important features of the skeleton were available from the cremation: a piece of the margin of the scapula (which is pretty thin) that still shows new remodelling even after having been exposed to massive heat (which warps bone), that the proper occipital fragments were found, etc. 
  • Plot
    • Why does Todd's girlfriend go through with the funeral if she knows he's not dead? And was the mother in on it, since she contracted the budget crematorium to incinerate Daniel?
    • Bones Writers Can't Check a Map -- The Jeffersonian team talks about the "Church Falls PD."  There's a Falls Church in VA, but not a Church Falls. 
    • Bones Writers Can't Check a Map II -- There doesn't seem to be any such thing as the Hateo Plain in Mongolia.  According to my very brief searching, the four major plains in the area of the Liaohe, Songnen, Tumochuan, and River Bend.  
    • I also don't understand the Mongolian dirt to begin with, since didn't the chalice come from Saudi Arabia? Or Punt (which was south of Egypt)?
    • See Who needs a classicist? for my rant on the terrible antiquities showcased.
    • Why in the world does Hodgins need to frankenstein together something to find evidence of diamond dust?  He has a slew of tools that would help him do that.
    • Yeah, no one would ask Brennan, a forensic anthropologist, to write the art historical-archaeological report on the Slaughterer's Chalice.  I know she's supposed to be suuuuuper smart and all, but this is someone else's area of expertise. Academic publication is not the result of finders-keepers.
  • Dialogue
    • "When ancient treasures are looted, it's worse than stealing art; it's stealing history. Artifacts like the Slaughterer's Chalice belong in a museum where everyone can experience them." -- Brennan, channeling her inner Indiana Jones, even though her house and her office are full of artifacts.
    • "...Then what are those horns on your head, pretty boy?" -- Mrs. Mirga. Nope, not ethnic profiling at all.

Forensic Mystery - C. The mystery wasn't bad per se, but it was all over the place.

Forensic Solution - D. Did they get someone new to write for Hodgins or something? No idea what was going on with his particulate analysis. It usually makes at least a little bit of sense.

Drama - D. There wasn't a killer on the loose.  And there was a whole bunch of dramatic filler in Finn's breakup with Michelle.  I honestly didn't remember they were dating.  And can't recall where she went off to school, where Finn is/was supposed to be living, and how much money he's supposedly making with the random hot sauce.

April 1, 2014

Who needs a classicist? (Installment 1)

You're all probably aware of my occasional series, "Who needs an osteologist?" where I show images with poorly laid-out skeletons because no one thought to consult an osteologist or even the internet.  Well, while watching last night's Bones, I realized there's a need for a new series, "Who needs a classicist?"

According to Brennan, this is a Mesopotamian "sacrificial basin" from 3000 BC:

Yeah, no.  This looks like an Attic red-figure lekanis to me (dating to about 400-300 BC).  It's definitely not Mesopotamian and not 5000 years old.  Here's an example of what Uruk-period pottery from Mesopotamia looked like:

Ceramic bowls from Hacinebi
But hey, my two degrees in classical archaeology have finally come in handy!

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