No Bone Unturned: The Adventures of the Smithsonian's Top Forensic Scientist and the Legal Battle for America's Oldest Skeletons

Overview

When he's not at a notorious disaster, Doug Owsley is entering tombs and crypts, unwrapping mummies, or climbing into caves to unlock the secrets of bones.

In No Bone Unturned, investigative journalist Jeff Benedict not only unveils a compelling portrait of the man behind America's most notorious cases but also gives us a fascinating look inside the world of forensic science as seen through the eyes of a leading specialist.

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Overview

When he's not at a notorious disaster, Doug Owsley is entering tombs and crypts, unwrapping mummies, or climbing into caves to unlock the secrets of bones.

In No Bone Unturned, investigative journalist Jeff Benedict not only unveils a compelling portrait of the man behind America's most notorious cases but also gives us a fascinating look inside the world of forensic science as seen through the eyes of a leading specialist.

Doug Owsley's extraordinary talent has put his phone number on speed dial for federal agencies, from the FBI to the CIA and the State Department. When the Branch Davidian compound in Waco caught fire, when a terrorist-flown plane crashed into the Pentagon, and when mass graves were uncovered in Croatia, the authorities called Owsley. Through cutting-edge science, instinctive artistry, and dogged tenacity, Owsley painstakingly rebuilds the skeleton, and helps identify it and determine the cause of death.

A curator for the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History, Doug Owsley has handled over ten thousand human skeletons, more than anyone else in America. He has worked with America's historic skeletons, from, colonial Jamestown burials to Plains Indians to Civil War soldiers to skeletons tens of thousands of years old.

That includes the Kennewick Man, a 9,600-year-old human skeleton found in shallow water along the banks of Washington State's Columbia River. It was a skeleton that would turn Owsley's life upside down.

Days before Owsley was scheduled to begin studying the skeleton, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers seized it and announced they would repatriate Kennewick Man, burying his bones on the land of the Native American tribes who claimed him. Along with seven of America's leading scientists, Owsley sued the U.S. government over custody. At stake was a wide body of knowledge about our past and our history that would be lost forever if the bones were reburied. For six years, Owsley fought a legal and political battle that put everything at risk, jeopardizing his career and his reputation.

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Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune
Compelling… [Owsley]…risked his job and his reputation in the name of science.
Hartford Courant
Appealing…Beneduct skillfully takes the reader into the world of the bone detective.
The Washington Post
Though sifting through bones may seem dry as dust, Owsley is clearly energized by the prospect -- and Benedict, to his credit, manages to convey some of his fascination to us. — Julia M. Klein
Publishers Weekly
As the title implies, this is two books in one. The first chronicles the fascinating scientific sleuthing of Smithsonian forensic anthropologist Doug Owsley, one of the world's leading experts in the interpretation of human skeletons and bone fragments. Investigative journalist Benedict (Without Reservation, etc.) follows Owsley as he flies into a dangerous paramilitary-controlled area in Guatemala to recover bone fragments that will enable him to identify the remains of a murdered journalist; into the charnel house that had been the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, where he identifies infants and children blown apart when the compound was destroyed; and into the archives at the Jamestown Colony, where Owsley correctly identifies a skeleton as belonging to an African-American, thus establishing that whites and blacks had lived together in America from the very earliest English settlement. The second half of the book chronicles Owsley and other scientists' legal battle to stop the government from turning over the controversial 9,000-year-old remains of the skeleton known as Kennewick Man, found in Washington State, to Native American groups, thus denying anthropologists an opportunity to study them. The book is a fast and exciting read up to the legal battle, where Benedict's recreation of the courtroom confrontations and behind-the-scenes maneuvering slows the pace considerably. This survey of Owsley's career will appeal to both science and legal buffs looking for a good weekend read. 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The so-called Kennewick Man, whose approximately 9600-year-old remains were discovered near Kennewick, WA, in 1996, appears to have spawned a cottage industry within publishing circles. This work by journalist Benedict joins James C. Chatters's Ancient Encounters: Kennewick Man and the First Americans and David Hurst Thomas's Skull Wars: Kennewick Man, Archaeology, and the Battle for Native American Identity in providing important perspectives concerning the legal battle over the application of the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act to human remains whose ancestry cannot be definitively determined. The perspective provided here is that of Dr. Douglas Owsley, the forensic anthropologist and successful lead plaintiff in the landmark legal case over Kennewick Man. Unlike other accounts of the case, this work also includes chapters focusing on Owsley's other investigations, such as the forensic work he conducted on David Koresh and the Branch Davidians in Waco, TX. These chapters provide fascinating insights into forensic anthropology as a vocation. Written for lay readers, this work is highly recommended for both academic and public libraries.-John Burch, Campbellsville Univ. Lib., KY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Smithsonian forensic pathologist Douglas Owsley gets an enthusiastic profile from investigative journalist Benedict (Public Heroes, Private Felons, 1997, etc.). Once you know how to read them, skeletons are caches of knowledge, and no one is better at discerning their stories than Owsley, curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Here, Benedict follows Owsley as he performs his fascinating, if at times grisly, labors examining the remains of Branch Davidian members burned at Waco, or sorting through the bone remnants of two Americans journalists murdered in Guatemala. It comes as no surprise that Owsley would become embroiled in the debate regarding Native American rights to remains, and much of this work is given to the dispute over the Kennebeck Man, an ancient skeleton of which the Umatilla and Yakima people wanted control, while Owsley countered that it was not of Native American ancestry. All the feints and obfuscations, legal dilly-dallying, and toadyism keep Benedict's extensive coverage of the case from becoming a legal thriller and almost torpedo the more intriguing story of Owsley's work, but the controversy does highlight the difficult choices to be made between scientific understanding and the rights of Native Americans: you can't know whether the remains are native until you have tampered with the evidence beyond what one culture deems decent and responsible. Benedict does a good job walking readers through Owsley at work, explaining how he reached various conclusions given the evidence, but there are too many times when the writer simply goes gaga over the pathologist’s talent ("his analytic faculties immediately became razor sharp, his senses andemotions all directed toward accomplishing his mission") or embraces Owsley's questionable opinions, such as putting the responsibility for the death of children at Waco solely on the shoulders of the Davidians, as if the FBI agents were innocent bystanders. No need to sensationalize Owsley's story; the pathologist would have emerged an even more awesome figure without the superhero garb. (8-page b&w photo insert, not seen)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060199234
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/6/2003
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.05 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeff Benedict conducted the first national study on sexual assault and athletes. He has published three books on athletes and crime, including a blistering exposé on the NFL, Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who Play in the NFL, and Public Heroes, Private Felons: Athletes and Crimes Against Women. He is a lawyer and an investigative journalist who has written five books.

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Table of Contents

Author's Note ix
Prologue 1
1 High-Stakes Playground 17
2 Opening Coffins 27
3 Bone Fragments 31
4 Going to Guatemala 35
5 Outsmarting the Devil 41
6 Into the Crypt 53
7 Building People 61
8 Remains of the Day 71
9 The Probe 75
10 Evil is Real 81
11 Unwrapping a Mummy 83
12 Somebody Else is Here 91
13 Humans Remain 95
14 Airfare for a Skeleton 103
15 Destination Unknown 109
16 Rush to Repatriate 115
17 We Know How Time Began 121
18 The Client 129
19 Senior Girl 135
20 Eight Men Out 145
21 About-Face 149
22 Where did You Get These Africans? 155
23 Turning the Lights on 159
24 Stand and Fight 169
25 Intent 175
26 Science Evolves 181
27 Virtual Reality 189
28 The Cover-up 197
29 Lie Detector 201
30 Skin Thickness 205
31 Objection 211
32 One Look 217
33 Going Deep 227
34 Spin Cycle 231
35 Show Time 239
36 White House Involvement 255
37 What You See Here Stays Here 263
38 In Demand 269
39 The Decision 275
Source Notes 283
Acknowledgments 291
Index 295
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2003

    Excellent book!

    It is difficult to find literature that looks at the controversy of the Kennewick Man from the Native Americans point of view. This book explains why. I found the background material on Owsley and forensics both entertaining and educational. The only negative about this book is that it is very upsetting to read how improperly the government handled this matter. Since reading this book I have looked at other information on this subject in newspapers and on the internet and I can now see many flaws in their logic and facts. A great read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2003

    Very interesting book, written about a very interesting person.

    This book was written about a very knowledgeable person. Shows what a lifetime of study will do for a person and how it can be used to better our lives. Doug is that person. Have heard him speak and he speaks with much authority. A very interesting person to listen to.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2003

    Kenniwick Man Lives Again

    Absolutely brilliant!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2003

    Fascinating!

    Well written and covers a number of interesting cases. What an interesting career this man has had! I look forward to reading more about him in the future.

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