June 27, 2015

This week at Forbes: Peruvian teratoma and review of PBS' First Peoples

Dialing things back to work on an article and book.  So just two posts this week at Forbes:

  • "Evil Twin" Ovarian Tumor Found in Skeleton from 16th Century Peru.  I saw a newish article from Haagen Klaus on leukemia from the site he works at in Peru and told him I wanted to cover it.  But he suggested that I cover his 2013 article on ovarian teratoma.  I've actually wanted to cover a teratoma (tumor with teeth, bone, hair, etc.) case since I started blogging at Forbes, so I jumped at the chance.  I hadn't realized how rare it is to find teratomas in the archaeological record.  The "evil twin" moniker is pure click-bait; seems to have worked, though.
  • Review: "First Peoples" Series Chronicles Origins and Spread of Modern Humans.  PBS created a new five-part documentary series on the origins of anatomically modern humans.  This is, as far as I know, new in the human origins documentary game.  The most recent series before this is the PBS NOVA Becoming Human, and only one episode is dedicated to AMH.  Plus, that was from 2011, and the sheer amount of new information we have from genetics in the past four years is staggering.  So it's an interesting series, but it's not perfect.  My review of the entire series (which will continue to air on July 1 and July 8) is at the link.
Let's see, next week... potentially posts on cannibalism, structural violence, and/or scurvy.  It depends on which images I get access to and how much time I have to write.

June 19, 2015

This week at Forbes: Roman undies and private parts, Kennewick Man's ancestry, and the real palaeo diet

Got back into some Roman stuff this week, as I'm writing a chapter and kicking off a book, so we've got:

  • Fresco of Priapus from Pompeii Depicts Problematic Genitalia.  You don't even know how much I wanted to continue the alliteration all the way to "penis."  Alas, family newspaper and whatnot.  I don't buy this explanation, since there are plenty of other representations of Priapus, including within the villa itself.  Retro-diagnosing is interesting, as I think bringing any new ideas to bear on ancient history is a good thing, but this doesn't really address the context and interpretation of the fresco.  On the other hand, it makes more people look at ancient art and ancient penises, so it can't be all bad...
  • The Real Palaeo Diet Included Plants and Not Just Meat. This nifty, short article reports on the analysis of dental calculus from a 400kyo cave site in Israel.  The researchers found pollen, charcoal, mold, and other weird stuff on the teeth.  It's first direct proof that hominins ate plants that long ago and also shows they were cooking indoors and probably inhaling a lot of smoke.
  • Without a Doubt, Kennewick Man Was Native American, Anthropologists Say.  Unfortunately, I did not have time to write up any sort of lengthy, thoughtful piece on this that did justice to the ongoing concerns from Native Americans, scientists, legal scholars, reburial advocates, etc.  As I'm not a "real" journalist, I don't get access to embargoed articles.  So you can read what the NY Times, Nature, and others have to say, from science journalists who had more time to digest it than I did.
Next week, I'll have a review of the upcoming PBS series First Peoples, and probably another article or two.

June 18, 2015

The Plague of Athens Was Not Ebola, Sheez

Live Science has a piece out covering a new article in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases by a doctor at the University of Michigan who is retro-diagnosing plagued Athenians with ebola.  Because why not?

I don't have time to thoroughly deal with this, since it's been a long day of writing already and there's yet more to write, but the new article does not in any way mention the 2006 article "DNA examination of ancient dental pulp incriminates typhoid fever as a probable case of the Plague of Athens."

DNA.  In ancient skeletons.  Of plague victims.

Plan of the Kerameikos mass burial.
Figure 1 in Papagrigorakis et al. 2006.
Even if the author of the new article thinks the 2006 piece is full of crap, he should at least deal with it. I mean, maybe the 2006 piece has problems (such as, maybe the skeletons in the cemetery were not from the plague but just all have typhoid fever anyway). But his article is full of assessment of the "clinical" symptoms of the plague based on Thucydides.

I'm not a huge fan of retro-diagnoses, but in the case of historical figures, I'll allow it.  After all, bringing modern medical knowledge to bear on ancient cases seems like a reasonable way to generate hypotheses and new interpretations of the past.

But when there's already DNA evidence of a pathogen from a plague pit?  Yeah, time to stop shoehorning ebola into ancient Athens.

Papagrigorakis MJ, Yapijakis C, Synodinos PN, Baziotopoulou-Valavani E (2006). DNA examination of ancient dental pulp incriminates typhoid fever as a probable cause of the Plague of Athens. International journal of infectious diseases : IJID : official publication of the International Society for Infectious Diseases, 10 (3), 206-14 PMID: 16412683.

Kazanjian P (2015). Ebola in Antiquity? Clinical infectious diseases : an official publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America PMID: 26033924.

June 12, 2015

This week at Forbes: Body farms, arrow in spine, Bones meta-piece, Cervantes, fire, and the antiquities trade

Every week, I plan 2-3 posts, and every week those somehow grow to 5-6 posts.  Here's what I wrote about this week on my Forbes blog:

  • Five reasons you shouldn't buy that ancient artifact.  If you're an archaeologist, chances are someone's asked you to evaluate or appraise an artifact.  Here's why you shouldn't do it, and why people shouldn't buy antiquities without doing a lot of background research first.
I'm working on stories for next week, although what I run will depend on when/whether I get image permissions.  But maybe some stuff on teratomas, cancer, another embedded arrow, or Paget's disease.  We'll see... 

June 11, 2015

Bones - Season 10, Episode 22 (Review)

The Next in the Last

Episode Summary
A body is found in a park, flayed with the middle excised, and placed on an obelisk. The Jeffersonian team and Booth head to the scene. There is extreme predation by vultures. Based on the height of the nasal bridge, Brennan suggests the victim was male. Depth of the sternal rib endings suggests he was in his 20s. Saroyan finds a Chiranthodendrum flower in his throat, which Hodgins says means "beware."  They think they're looking at a Pelant copy-cat, since all of this fits with his m.o.

Bray and Edison examine the body when it gets back to the Jeffersonian.  The heart was cut out postmortem, but liver and lungs still remain for Saroyan to test. A thin epiphysis on the iliac crest suggests the victim had osteomalacia, possibly from staying indoors too much. Hodgins finds traces of pizza, and Angela gets a facial ID: Franklin Holt, an independent computer consultant who worked from home.

Booth and Aubrey head to Holt's inexplicably ginormous house. There they find Leelah Strawn, who claims to be Holt's girlfriend.  She says she saw the blood and was calling 911. They met through playing Call of Duty. The Jeffersonian team shows up to the crime scene. Blood and tissue is everywhere, and there are no computers or hard drives to be found. Leelah says that Holt got someone at Dunlop Investments fired, so Aubrey questions Owen Elixson.  Elixson seems to be somewhat obsessed with Pelant, but claims it's because of his hacking genius. Holt broke into Dunlop's sooper secret server, which even Elixson didn't have access to, and that got Elixson fired.

Back at the Jeffersonian, Wendell and Edison find kerf marks on both scapulae and on the inferior margin of the manubrium. A similar bone saw to the one Pelant used was also used in this case. The striae show hesitation marks, which Brennan thinks means the killer was questioning these actions. Daisy shows up and finds a random VHS tape procured from Holt's house.  Angela realizes that's where Holt's backup is, and runs off to read it.

Booth and Aubrey call in Kevin Dunlop for questioning.  He is evasive about the 4.6 billion dollars, but Aubrey goes all daddy-issues on him, revealing that he helped bring down his fradulent-investment-banking father. Dunlop admits that the money was there until the day Holt died, when it vanished. Then the writers get hella confused about how encryption and decryption work, as Angela is able to decrypt some of the VHS tape -- enough to search for random strings! - but thinks it'll take "months" to decrypt the rest.  Anyway, suspension of disbelief and all, so Angela gets hits on the two prime suspects, Elixson and Dunlop.  Elixson admits he was giving Holt passwords (presumably while he still worked there, since they'd change those passwords after he was fired) in exchange for money.

In order to figure out cause of death, the forensic team finds evidence of a bullet wound on the radiating fractures on the left scapula.  The hydrostatic shock from the bullet cracked the bone.  The midsection was removed, to fit the body over the obelisk, but in the crudest way possible. Hodgins finds that the pizza from Holt's house was covered in Cladosporium. Based on its hyphae, he thinks it was delivered the night Holt was killed, between 8-10pm. The hesitation marks that the forensic team saw on the bones, they realize, were actually the result of an injury to the killer: radioulnar synostosis, preventing the killer from rotating the wrists.  Hodgins for some reason commandeers an ancient mass spec called a Calutron and finds that the pizza box has gunshot residue on it. The pizza delivery person was likely the killer.

They get surveillance tapes from the pizza place and notice someone picking up the pizza funny as the person does not have full wrist range-of-motion. Brennan notices the valgus angulation of the knees and realizes the killer was a woman. They suspect it's Leelah, especially when Angela says she never found evidence of her being Holt's girlfriend on the mysteriously-half-unencrypted-VHS-tape. Leelah was also a hacker, known in some circle or other as Mainframe.

Apparently, also on the magic VHS tape was info about how Holt was tracking Leelah. He put a digital trap on... something of hers?... which Angela uses to find out that Leelah used one of her anonymous IP addresses to rent a car (because, sure?). Her debit card was used outside of Hagerstown, so Booth and Aubrey head there to find her.  Somehow they find her exact whereabouts, as she's heading towards a train station. She tazes a dude and jumps onto a train. Booth and Aubrey find her, she throws some barrels or stuff in their way, gets away, then goes into a chicken-coop-car, disarms Aubrey, locks Booth out, and repeatedly tazes Aubrey.  Anyway, Booth pries open the door, Aubrey doesn't seem particularly fazed (heh), Booth sharp-shoots the tazer out of her hand, and they cuff Leelah.

In the wrap-up, Angela finds all of Hodgins' money.  He asks her to secretly funnel it to charities because of course that's a thing you can do without any sort of paper trail. Vaziri shows up to comfort Saroyan. Pelant sends a beyond-the-grave video message to Brennan about how he'll never die, and she literally just shuts the computer on him, which was honestly kinda funny. B & B walk out of the Jeffersonian into the sunset with all the staff looking on and nodding sadpreciatingly.

  • Forensic
    • Demographics: Height of the nasal bridge for sex?  Ugh.  Sternal rib ends are ok, except that depth is only one of the three characteristics that is used in that method.  Also, Brennan could not see them from where she was.
    • Goddamnit, the switched radius and ulna are going to give me an ulcer.  The radii in this episode were even upside down (anterior-to-posterior).  Standard.  Anatomical.  Position. Know it, love it. It's a 206-piece puzzle that goes together the same way every damn time. (Phew! I will be SO happy if they fix that next season.  SO HAPPY.)
    • Valgus knees = knock-knees.  I wasn't aware that women's knees were... closer together than men's knees?  
  • Plot
    • Oh noez, we're back to Hodgins' 4.6 billion.  Remember when we learned that someone that stinking rich had all of his money in one place?  Because that's totally a thing that rich people do rather than hiring investment managers?
    • Holt sure has a giant house for someone who lives alone. 
    • Why is Edison using clay to do a facial reconstruction when there are ginormous computers that can digitally scan and algorithmically reconstruct faces?  Does literally no one else know how to work Angela's computer?  No cases will ever be solved if she leaves, since ID always seems to hinge on a facial reconstruction.
    • Brennan wants to take a presumably faculty job.  In Kansas.  Where they will give her "unlimited funds."  Hahahahahaha.  It's always funny when the writers attempt anything related to academia.  I mean, seriously, isn't the country-wide defunding and dismantling of higher ed even a blip on people's radar?  Welcome to state-funded public schools in random states, Brennan.  Hope you like teaching a 3/3 and spending inordinate amounts of time on "assessment"!
    • Man, the VHS tape thing.  So, they can store more than I thought.  They're ancient, but they're still magnetic tape.  My resident computer nerd (read: my brilliant software engineer husband, who would like the Bones writers to know that he is available for all their consultation needs) said a VHS tape could store gigs' worth of data.  A far cry from today's terabyte drives, but still a significant amount.  The biggest problem is the idea of decryption.  It's an all-or-nothing thing. Decryption means that the encryption key is breakable quickly or breakable never.  Even if each email on the VHS tape was encrypted separately (or if they were encrypted in groups based on, say, sender), it's still all or nothing.  Either it's broken quickly or it's, and I quote, "a life of the goddamn universe scenario."  Which means Angela's excuse for not going to Paris, namely that it'll take months to decrypt the data fully, is total crap.  Especially after she got Holt's hard drives and encryption keys. Dur. And then Angela gets an anonymous IP and finds some sort of position for Leelah? I don't even know. [Here are his thoughts on the Pelant-bone-computer-virus madness from S07 if you want more proof the computer stuff is seriously wonky.]
    • Brennan would almost certainly have an employment contract with the Jeffersonian.  Maybe she could give two weeks' notice (yeah, sure), but she can't just arbitrarily quit one day.
    • Hodgins takes an old mass spec that will almost surely destroy the best evidence they have for who the killer is as it spits out its information.  Sure, compromising the case is definitely worth playing with ancient equipment. Also, the Calutron was specifically used for uranium, which I don't think is in gunshot residue.
Forensic Mystery - B-.  I still sort of like the Pelant arc, even if it means horrible, laughable computer forensics.

Forensic Solution - B. It seemed mostly reasonable, except for the knee thing.

Drama - C.  It's been clear for months that this episode had to be written as a series finale in the event the show didn't get picked up for another season.  So there was a bunch of hand-wringing and tears... that end up not feeling earned since we know it'll be returning.

NB: If you haven't seen my meta-post over at Forbes on the best/worst episodes in the last five seasons, do go check it out!

June 8, 2015

Bones - Season 10, Episode 21 (Review)

The Life in the Light

Episode Summary
A body shows up at the Jeffersonian, covered in red slurry because it was found when firefighters were putting out a forest fire. The bones are fractured from the fire, but Wendell says the skeleton is male based on the large, ovoid obturator foramen. The fine texture of the pubic symphyses puts his age at mid to late 30s, and parabolic dental arch suggests Caucasian. There are metal plates in his head and his right ankle, injuries commonly seen in motorcycle accidents. His charred clothing has evidence of hydrocarbons -- he was doused in gasoline, which may have been the source of the forest fire. Angela's facial reconstruction gets a hit in the DC criminal database: an ex-con named Micah Stanbow, who was in a biker gang and went to prison for felony assault and grand theft auto, but who turned his life around and became co-owner of a yoga studio.

Booth and Aubrey question Dale Brock, the leader of Micah's old biker gang who got out of prison the day that Micah was last seen alive. Brock insists he hasn't seen Micah since before going to prison. Booth and Brennan go to Micah's yoga studio, which he ran with his girlfriend, Nan Rosemond. She claims not to know anything of Micah's disappearance, which she didn't report because she thought he was on a silence retreat to the woods to meditate. She points them at a yogi named Raj who ran a studio down the street until Micah's became more popular. Raj has no alibi, claiming he was in an intensive, solitary meditation practice at the time of Micah's death.

Meanwhile, Saroyan finds that Micah didn't go into the forest voluntarily. Muscle tissue rupture around the shoulder shows he was dragged. Further, damage to the left zygomatic has radiating fracture lines that point to perimortem injuries caused by a rounded object, possibly a bat or a pipe. Hodgins starts to analyze Micah's melted plastic sandal for particulates, and Angela looks through Micah's cell phone to find he was using an app to receive pictures of a woman who was not his girlfriend.

Aubrey talks to the woman, a former yoga student named Elizabeth Collins, but she asserts Micah and Nan were in an open relationship and that, even though she was charged with assaulting a previous boyfriend with a baseball bat, she did not hurt Micah. Booth and Aubrey also talk to Nan again.  She too had a lover, Donato, an artist, but she doesn't think he had anything to do with Micah's death. Hodgins, though, finds evidence of oil paint on Micah's shoe, and Angela works backwards to figure out that he must have stepped in it the day he died. So Aubrey and Booth visit Donato, whose face is beaten up.  He insists he fell down a flight of stairs and that Micah came to check on him. But Micah got a phone call and headed off on his bike to a nearby location.

Wendell then finds a tiny nick to the distal end of the left femur in the area of the femoral artery. If something sharp injured Micah, it could have transected the artery and caused him to bleed out. There are similar nicks to the left ribs and the right humerus. Brennan thinks that Micah may have been pushed through a window with an aluminum frame, and Angela reconstructs the scene with Micah holding the back of his head, based on a depression fracture on the occipital, and then being propelled through the glass.

Aubrey finds out that someone using a burner cell called Micah the day of his death, and Angela triangulates Micah's destination based on his location, the time it would take to get there, and geotagged photos from social media. He was seen entering a bar called Nat's Place, as was Dale Brock, the former bike gang leader. Aubrey talks to Brock again, who admits to having lied because he is not supposed to have contact with felons. Brock asked Micah for help; he needed $20k to pay off back child support once he got out of prison. Micah told him to stay at the bar, he'd get the money; but Micah never came back. Since $20k was the entirety of Micah and Nan's savings and since a fragment of Tibetan bamboo was found in Micah's skull, Booth and Aubrey go back to talk to Nan, whose patio furniture is glass and who is missing a coffee table.

Nan admits that she got upset that Micah wanted to drain their savings for Brock.  She hit him hard with a bamboo-case tablet, which knocked him into the glass coffeetable. She dumped the body and the tablet, but the data from the tablet was uploaded into the cloud. Angela finds the data, and there is damning evidence of the crime of passion because the tablet started recording after Nan hit Micah with it.


  • Forensic
    • Demographics: They're all ok, provided additional work is done to shore up the estimations rather than using just one trait. The obturator foramen can suggest sex, the pubic symphyses are a good judge of age, and a parabolic dental arch might suggest ancestry or race.
    • The unreliable technique of facial reconstruction gets the ID, rather than, oh, the massive plate in the skull that likely has a serial number or can be cross-referenced with medical charts?
    • If the victim was the source of the forest fire, his remains would not be nearly that complete.  A body burning for days? Yeah, it'd be little whitish gray bits, kinda like a cremation.
    • Although Brennan specifically points out the right ulna, radius, and humerus, the lower arm bones are not in standard anatomical position (which, yes, I often complain about).
    • Traces of wood fiber were found on the victim, who was burning in a fire for days and then sprayed down with chemical fire-retardant?
  • Plot
    • So there were perimortem injuries caused by a cylindrical object?  That wasn't the tablet, nor the table, so what caused those? I don't think we ever learned.
    • If you buy a house without telling your wife, Hodgins, it's actually yours and not "ours."  You know, title and all that.
  • Dialogue
    • Brennan mentions that yoga provides "a myriad of" benefits.  But Brennan would probably fall into the camp that insists there is no "a" myriad of things.  It's just "myriad."  Yoga provides myriad benefits. The usage of the term is still being debated, though, by grammar pedants like me.

Forensic Mystery - B-.  A few more persons-of-interest compared to last week make the mystery a bit more interesting. And we never did learn what caused the perimortem injuries...

Forensic Solution - B+. Pretty reasonable forensics this week, with the exception of the facial ID and wood fiber nonsense.

Drama - C+. More Booth and Brennan drama this week, that seems to be wrapping up. The titular heroine was reunited with Booth reasonably quickly in screen time but with enough time and exposition for the reunion to feel real. Hodgins and Angela are apparently leaving, which means I guess no more insanely fancy computer forensic particulate madness next season?

Bones - Season 10, Episode 20 (Review)

The Woman in the Whirlpool

Episode Summary
A baptism in a local river comes up with a dead body. At the scene, the Jeffersonian team speculates that someone tossed the body in upstream. Unusual sculpting of the bones suggests the body, following defleshing, was stuck in some sort of natural whirlpool causing the skull in particular to get sanded down. Jessica estimates based on the small brow ridges and sharp upper orbital borders that the person was female, and her pubic symphyses suggest early 50s. Her left arm is missing, and Hodgins employs an underwater robot to find it, then has to go after the mired robot to find the arm on his own.

Back at the Jeffersonian, the team finds that the bone is badly abraded throughout the skeleton from postmortem factors. Based on the life cycle of the aquatic caddisfly larvae, Hodgins estimates time-since-death of less than four days. Hodgins also notices the victim's shirt and the absence of something, namely a monogram, so he has Angela reconstruct it: Thompson Hardware, Leslie. Saroyan finds evidence of heavy metal poisoning in Leslie's tox screen, but with no metaphyseal bands on the long bones, Jessica and Brennan think she was poisoned over a long period of time.

Aubrey calls Ted Thompson, the hardware store owner, in for questioning.  Ted says he last saw Leslie on Friday, that everyone liked her, but that she had a troubled relationship with her college-age daughter Courtney. The daughter did not report her mom missing because she had just gotten back from college. Her mother was not particularly active in her life, though, as she lived only for collecting cookie jars. The carcinogenic glaze on the old jars explains the heavy metal poisoning, but not the laceration to Leslie's right hand, which has rust in it.

Leslie was active in the cookie jar auction community, shelling out for good internet so she could win auctions by milliseconds. Just days before her death, she posted nasty stuff online about Cheryl McMichaels, another collector/seller. Aubrey and Booth head over to Cheryl's house, where she's throwing out rusty metal items. They confront her about Leslie, but Cheryl insists they were friends and she sold Leslie a lot of jars. The most recent jar she promised to sell Leslie was scooped up by someone who wanted it so badly he was willing to pay a lot more, so Leslie was upset.

Jessica and Brennan get to work on determining cause of death.  They notice an injury to the frontal and parietal bones that seems like a well-healed glancing gunshot wound. A concomitant injury to Leslie's prefrontal cortex during the incident that happened about 20 years ago may be the reason for her obsession with collecting cookie jars. Brennan sections the skull to take a look at the endocranial surface for evidence of blunt force trauma. She finds two hits, with radiating and linear fractures preserved, which is useful because the ectocranial surface was sanded down.  Mapping the fractures, Brennan and Jessica find that the injuries were from two separate blows, one perimortem and one postmortem, created with a heavy, cylindrical object. Saroyan also finds fiberglass in Leslie's lungs, suggesting she spent a lot of time in her attic.

Aubrey and Jessica go to Leslie's house to check out the attic. They find blood on a rusty nail and think that may have been the crime scene. They also find one Mr. Simon, who had snuck into Leslie's house to retrieve a Babe Ruth cookie jar but had gotten trapped there when Courtney came home. He is the one who scooped it from Leslie, paying Cheryl a lot of money. But one day he came home and found it missing; he suspected Leslie and came to steal it back. The DC police confirm Simon's story, as he reported the initial break-in and missing cookie jar. But Angela wonders why Leslie's entire cookie jar collection was listed for sale online, only to be pulled a day later. Courtney owns up to having posted the collection while her mother was out of town, but she took it down when she realized it was time to move on.

Brennan and Jessica find a small, perimortem nick on Leslie's clavicle that they think is connected to the damage to the cranial vault. A diagonal blow from the frontal to the clavicle could have caused all the injuries and sliced through the subclavian artery, causing her to bleed to death. Jessica finds a shard of green glass caught in the clavicle wound, and Hodgins notes that it's pressure-ware glass, the kind found in champagne bottles. He remembers seeing a bottle in the water when he retrieved Leslie's arm.  Using aerosolized gold, he pulls off a fingerprint: Ted Thompson.

Ted confesses to the murder. He and Leslie were sort of a couple, but she used him to break into Simon's house and get the Babe Ruth cookie jar. A few days later, he brought over some champagne, but Leslie ignored him and concentrated on cleaning her jars. He got mad and swung the bottle at the jar she was holding, but she parried and the glass ended up cutting her throat.


  • Forensics
    • Demographics: Eye orbits are fine for sex estimation, although with the pelvis right there (and the plot point about her troubled relationship with her daughter), it might have been more interesting to use that for sex and for possible evidence of childbirth. Pubic symphysis for age is the ideal method, although narrowing it down to early 50s is too specific. Ancestry/race wasn't done in this case.
    • Jessica offhandedly mentions metaphyseal bands as an indication of heavy metal poisoning. While this is true, you're only going to see them in children who are still growing, not in a 50-year-old woman.
    • I suppose a piece of glass could get wedged so far into bone that it would stay there in spite of whirlpool forces and later maceration at the Jeffersonian... oh, no, wait, I don't buy that at all.
    • They got blood and a fingerprint from a glass bottle that'd been in whirlpool force currents for four days?  Sure thing.
  • Plot
    • Ted tossed the body into the river upstream, right?  So why was the murder weapon (a glass bottle) also found in the exact same spot?
    • If Ted accidentally hit Leslie with the champagne bottle, why were there two blunt force injuries to her skull instead of one? Did he smack her with it postmortem too?
    • Which part of Leslie was hit with the rusty nail?  Oh, her hand?  Ted said there was a ton of blood... how did he clean it all up from the exposed fiberglass?  I guess he laid down some new fiberglass, since he was a hardware store owner?
    • Why did Ted carry champagne up into the attic?
    • Why was Leslie polishing cookie jars in a dusty attic, where they'd just get more dusty?
    • So many questions.
  • Dialogue
    • "Have you ever been on the internet? It's the land of nasty, bitter people." -- Cheryl, speaking the truth
Forensic Mystery - C. Is it just me, or did this episode have far fewer people-of-interest/red herrings than normal?

Forensic Solution - B-. Most of it seemed pretty reasonable.  Positive ID was not touched on, though, since her name tag was found.

Drama - C. The case-of-the-week was kind of bland, with the writers pouring their efforts into the Booth and Brennan drama. It's just that the realities of Gamblers Anonymous aren't that interesting.

June 6, 2015

This week at Forbes: Castration consternation and an astonishing amputation

On offer this week are two posts that have both done pretty well in terms of reader interest:

  • Man bound to tree has right hand cut off in 14th century blood feud.  This is a cool article by Simon Mays, expanding work he did in the 90s on a particular skeleton that, through its healed amputation and documentary and archaeological records, Mays thinks can be identified as a specific person.  Richard de Holebrok wasn't particularly interesting, just a local, wealthy landowner, but since he complained of being attacked by a mob of 80-some people (all of whose names he knew!) in 1327, parts of his story can be told now.  It's a wonderful example of forensic archaeology but focused on someone not as well-known as Philip II or Richard III. (It's also still amazing to me that Britain has documentary records going back a millennium!)
Sparse posting this past week because I was on vacation for most of it.  Next week, look forward to a pre-Scythian burial, a meta-Bones post, and probably one more article.  Then I want to get back to some Roman stuff as I work more intensely on my forthcoming pop-sci book on Roman bioarchaeology.

June 1, 2015

Roman Bioarchaeology Carnival LXXII

So very much stuff this month (at least part of which is attributable to my new gig at Forbes), so let's hit it!

  • 20 April. Ruhestatte eines jungen Glaubens (Radiowissen Bayern). This German news piece deals with the Christian catacombs in Rome. I would tell you more, but my German is really rather poor.
  • 12 May. Ancient secrets uncovered (Harvard Art Museums Magazine). A graduate student found cremains in an Etruscan urn she was studying and brought in bioarchaeologist Marshall Becker to help find out more.
    Etruscan urn with ancient cremains. (Photo credit: Harvard)
  • 17 May. Roman gutter burials and a non-existent line of Pliny (Strange History). This is an important blog post on what we do and do not know about so called subgrundaria (or suggrundaria), which are supposedly baby burials beneath the eaves and outside of houses. That is, the word apparently appears only once in the whole of the classical corpus, in Fulgentius.
Extracted teeth from Roman Forum. (Photo credit: M. Becker)

Roman Empire

  • 7 May. London Crossrail dig hits beheaded Romans (Forbes). I write in this about the new Roman-era finds uncovered in the excavation to put in a high-speed train line in Rome, including some beheaded people.
  • 13 May. Rotten Roman baby teeth blamed on honey, porridge (Forbes). I wrote up some new research by Laura Bonsall and colleagues on early childhood caries in a Romano-British child.
    Roman-era tombstone found in Britain
    (Photo credit: Discovery News)
  • 28 May. Mystery deepens over rare Roman tombstone (Discovery News).  I covered this in a past RBC, but recent analysis shows that the gravestone and the person in it are not from the same time period at all.  Very interesting stuff.

Non-Roman-Era/Greek Stuff That's Fun Anyway

Other Interesting Things

  • 27 May. Katy Meyers Emery of Bones Don't Lie and I wrote an honest-to-goodness, peer-reviewed article on blogging bioarchaeology.  It's open-access, so go ahead and read "Bones, bodies, and blogs" and let us know what you think!

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