Written in Bones: How Human Remains Unlock the Secrets of the Dead

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Overview

Written in Bones brings together a team of international experts to show how the careful study of bones reveals a compelling picture of the lives, cultures, and beliefs of ancient societies from around the world.

This compelling and scientifically-accessible book:
- Provides 38 case studies examining the discoveries at archeological sites
- Introduces readers to ancient peoples
- Includes more than 350 color photographs

Human remains tell us much about how our ancestors lived and died. In Written in Bones, significant discoveries are carefully brought together and analyzed. Readers learn how experts use modern scientific techniques to piece together the stories behind the bones. The data is used to create a picture of cultures and ritual beliefs. There are such astonishing discoveries as:
- Han Dynasty aristocrat preserved in an unknown red liquid
- Bog bodies in Europe
- The riddle of Tomb KV55 - where a male body was found inside a female coffin
- World's oldest dwarf
- The headless men and giant wolves of the Mesolithic cemetery in Siberia

About the author:

Paul Bahn, Ph.D. studied archeology at Cambridge University. For this book he worked with a team of 16 contributors from universities around the world. His numerous books, written alone or with a co-author, include Ancient Places, Images of the Ice Age, Journey through the Ice Age and The Cambridge Illustrated History of Archaeology, Tombs, Games and Mummies.

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Editorial Reviews

Science Books and Films
An excellent survey of the postmortem identification and interpretation of human remains... the text is complimented by beautiful color photographs.
— Nikki Rogers
E-Streams
Perfect for general readers interested in this fascinating topic... accessible to a wide range of readers.
— Kymberly Goodson
Greensburg Tribune-Review
Grisly, gross and utterly compelling ... with 250 color photographs, you may find it hard to put this down.
The Science Teacher
Well-written... tapestry of science and history will both motivate and challenge readers, it shows how science and history are inseparable.
— Charles C. James
Canadian Society of Forensic Science Journal
A very comprehensive book on the interesting fate of human remains... an informative and fun read.
— Sara J.M. Yoshida
Science Books and Films - Nikki Rogers
An excellent survey of the postmortem identification and interpretation of human remains... the text is complimented by beautiful color photographs.
E-Streams - Kymberly Goodson
Perfect for general readers interested in this fascinating topic... accessible to a wide range of readers.
The Science Teacher - Charles C. James
Well-written... tapestry of science and history will both motivate and challenge readers, it shows how science and history are inseparable.
Canadian Society of Forensic Science Journal - Sara J.M. Yoshida
A very comprehensive book on the interesting fate of human remains... an informative and fun read.
Greensburg Tribune-Review
Grisly, gross and utterly compelling ... with 250 color photographs, you may find it hard to put this down.
Escarpment Views - Gloria Hildebrandt
Completely engrossing, this richly illustrated book shares the findings of studies of ancient human burials from the world.... An utterly fascinating book.
Chicago Botanic Garden - Adele Kleine
Eminently readable ... crammed full of information about each plant. All the basics are covered—seed planting, preservation, cultivation and garden use. It is also a book to pick up from time to time to read and re-read just for pleasure. Herbs are a banquet for the senses.
Chicago Times - Renee Enna
You'll find what you need and much more (including recipes) in this beautiful book... [It] is back in print after many years out of it and we wonder at the lapse. Lima's writing sparkles with wit, elegance and wheelbarrows full of practical information.
Denver Post - Elana Ashanti Jefferson
Herbs is as pretty as it is packed with detailed information about the care and uses of just about every herb under the sun. This title has been out-of-print but returns to book stores and garden centers this spring to enlighten the green-thumb crowd on such topics as selecting landscape herbs, distinguishing between culinary and medicinal herbs, and creating alluring container herb gardens.
National Gardening Association - Susan Littlefield
Gorgeous photos and lovely watercolor drawings, along with lots of helpful information to inspire your efforts at herb gardening.
Texas Gardener's Seeds - William Scheick
Herbs: The Complete Gardener's Guide offers a thorough, rich treatment of the topic. Produced in large format with gorgeous photographs, this handsome paperback resurrects the out-of-print 2001 hardback edition. Especially engaging is Lima's chapter on uncommon scents, which introduced me to the antique and now almost forgotten Iris florentina. Equally engaging is an enlightening chapter on herbs from woods, fields and meadows.
The Oregonian - Kym Pokorny
First published in 2001 and long out of print, Patrick Lima's book has been reissued, a happy occurrence for those who love good writing and beautiful photography, whether they grow herbs or not... Turid Forsyth does justice to the plants profiled by Patrick Lima in language that is almost poetic.... There's plenty of practical information here, but Lima excels in bringing together lore, description and medicinal uses. It's a great read.
Toronto Star - Dominique Browning
A gardener could get lost for hours in Lima's treasure trove of a book.
Pacaritambo: The Machu Picchu Magazine and History
Grisly, gross and utterly compelling ... with 250 color photographs, you may find it hard to put this down. As an introductory book to archeology and anthropology, this book is without peer. Its individual case studies are detailed enough to spark interest, but short enough not to bog down in details.... This book presents the results in a very readable fashion and should help to create wider interest and understanding of this fascinating topic.
National Gardening Association - Kim Haworth
Comprehensive... filled with magnificent color photographs.... The book is very readable and should be part of every gardener's resource library.
Book News
[Bahn] provides a glimpse into the study of archeology through specific illustrative cases.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781552976593
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 3/1/2003
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Bahn, Ph.D. studied archeology at Cambridge University. For this book he worked with a team of 16 contributors from universities around the world. His numerous books, written alone or with a co-author, include Ancient Places, Images of the Ice Age, Journey through the Ice Age and The Cambridge Illustrated History of Archaeology.

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Read an Excerpt

Introductionby Paul Bahn

Human remains have always been an important source of information about many aspects of the past — and one of the most popular When this book was being put together, no fewer than three series on British television focused on the archaeology of human remains, and the media were inundated with coverage of a necropolis of 2,000 Inca mummies found under a shantytown in Peru; the National Geographic Society screened a TV documentary on this find, which was preceded by sensational articles and photographs in numerous publications.

Mummies are big news. They sell books, such as journalist Heather Pringle's The Mummy Congress, an entertaining account of the often eccentric folk who devote their lives to these preserved corpses. They inspire writers of fiction — ranging from Edgar Allan Poe to Tennessee Williams and Gustave Flaubert, who kept a mummy's foot on his desk. They arouse wonder, like the 500-year-old mummy of a Chinese of the Ming Dynasty discovered in 2001, a 60-year-old man with supple skin and mustache that was nearly a foot (30 centimeters) long; or a bejeweled elderly female Ming mummy, also found in 2001, who wore a wig to cover her baldness. They draw crowds; when the National Geographic Society put the Andean "Juanita" on show, 100,000 people turned up and waited in lines around the block. Of course they sell movies, particularly the recent The Mummy and The Mummy Returns. And it is no coincidence that the most popular computer game is called "Tomb Raider."

Mummies have even become the focus of fakery and perhaps even foul play - as in the case of the "Persian mummy" that came to light in Pakistan in October 2000 and was offered for sale on the black market for $20 million. An elaborate fraud, the mummy, with its beaten gold decorations, was in an ornate wooden box and a stone sarcophagus. Hieroglyphics stated that the body belonged to Rhodugune or Ruduuna, the daughter of Xerxes, the great king of the Persian Empire - but Persia is not known to have practiced mummification. It all proved the work of highly skilled artisans led by a specialist scholar; executing the ruse required a goldsmith, a stonemason, a cabinetmaker, a team of embalmers and an expert on Persian history who knew its ancient language. Obviously, all this painstaking work must have cost a great deal of money. In the end, however, radiocarbon dating proved that, instead of being 2,600 years old, the mummy was at most 45 years old. It was, in fact, the mummified body of a woman who died in the mid-1990s of a broken neck and a massive back injury, and who may have been murdered or whose body may have been stolen shortly after burial.

The British Museum recently created the first virtual reality Egyptian mummy, which has allowed researchers to see detailed three-dimensional (3-fl) images of an important priest called Nesperennub, who died in Thebes around 800 BC, without unwrapping him. The body was reconstructed with a medical scanner and computer graphics technology of a kind used in making the movie The Lord of the Rings. The 1,500 two-dimensional cross-sectional scans were pieced together by visualization software to create a complete 3-D fly-through image that can be viewed from any perspective on a computer It resembles a hologram and shows that the priest was buried with flat, almond-shaped glass eyes, while the top of his head was covered with a strange, unfired clay bowl - for 40 years, nobody at the museum could tell from X-rays what that object could be. The pictures eventually will be used to make a model of the skull, from which an accurate reconstruction of the face will be produced. Meanwhile, visitors to the museum can use virtual reality headsets or polarized glasses to zoom in on the mummy's wrappings or even look out through its eyes. In short, in a few decades science has progressed from the destruction and unwrapping of mummies to the ability to study them thoroughly without touching them.

In another recent study, this time of a Neanderthal skull from St. Césaire, France, about 36,000 years old, scientists detected a healed fracture of the cranial vault, apparently the result of the impact of a sharp implement. This simple wound has revealed a great deal. First, in order to penetrate the bone, the blow must have been inflicted with great speed, probably by a stone tool attached to a shaft. This could not have been an accident or a wound from an animal. Second, the victim recovered, so others in the group must have provided food and shelter while the wound healed. This confirms the evidence we already have from other sites such as Shanidar (Iraq) that Neanderthals were compassionate, caring and supportive to the disadvantaged in their society. As this volume shows, this attitude continued into the late Ice Age and beyond in many cultures.

Finally, In May 2002, a remarkable discovery was announced in France. Close to Clermont-Ferrand, an Iron Age tomb was unearthed containing eight people and eight small horses. Only 328 yards (800 meters) away is the impressive rampart of the unexcavated oppidum (Iron Age town) of Gondole. No tomb like this has ever been found before; multiple burials of Gauls have been discovered, and also buried horses, but never the two together, and certainly never such a spectacular array of both. The seven men and one adolescent were laid out dramatically in two rows, as were the eight horses. All 16 bodies were on their right side, head to the south, and the humans gazing east. Each man has his left arm on the man in front. What is puzzling is that there are no grave goods — no weapons, ornaments, pots, offerings or harness equipment — and no discernible cause of death. So, as yet, nobody knows if these are ritual sacrifices or victims of warfare between tribes or against Romans. What's more, two more tombs have already been detected in the immediate vicinity.

In short, there is no lack of major and exciting finds of human remains coming to light, and the extent of what we can learn about our ancestors never ceases to grow. This book intends to give the reader a mere taste of this field of study, covering the widest possible range of periods — from fossil hominids to Napoleonic troops — and of subjects, from mummies to mayhem. And yet in 50 or 100 years, even the most sophisticated of our current analyses will doubtless seem crude and primitive, such is the pace of scientific development. Our ability to read what is written in bones is constantly improving, and these new discoveries show that plenty of texts still await us.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction 6
Chapter 1 A Way of Life 9
Chapter 2 Natural Deaths 45
Chapter 3 Deliberate Deaths 83
Chapter 4 Burials 135
Chapter 5 Mummies and Mummification 165
Index 186
Bibliography 188
Picture Credits 191
Contributors 192
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Preface

Introduction
by Paul Bahn

Human remains have always been an important source of information about many aspects of the past — and one of the most popular When this book was being put together, no fewer than three series on British television focused on the archaeology of human remains, and the media were inundated with coverage of a necropolis of 2,000 Inca mummies found under a shantytown in Peru; the National Geographic Society screened a TV documentary on this find, which was preceded by sensational articles and photographs in numerous publications.

Mummies are big news. They sell books, such as journalist Heather Pringle's The Mummy Congress, an entertaining account of the often eccentric folk who devote their lives to these preserved corpses. They inspire writers of fiction — ranging from Edgar Allan Poe to Tennessee Williams and Gustave Flaubert, who kept a mummy's foot on his desk. They arouse wonder, like the 500-year-old mummy of a Chinese of the Ming Dynasty discovered in 2001, a 60-year-old man with supple skin and mustache that was nearly a foot (30 centimeters) long; or a bejeweled elderly female Ming mummy, also found in 2001, who wore a wig to cover her baldness. They draw crowds; when the National Geographic Society put the Andean "Juanita" on show, 100,000 people turned up and waited in lines around the block. Of course they sell movies, particularly the recent The Mummy and The Mummy Returns. And it is no coincidence that the most popular computer game is called "Tomb Raider."

Mummies have even become the focus of fakery and perhaps even foul play - as in the case of the "Persian mummy" that came to light in Pakistan in October 2000 and was offered for sale on the black market for $20 million. An elaborate fraud, the mummy, with its beaten gold decorations, was in an ornate wooden box and a stone sarcophagus. Hieroglyphics stated that the body belonged to Rhodugune or Ruduuna, the daughter of Xerxes, the great king of the Persian Empire - but Persia is not known to have practiced mummification. It all proved the work of highly skilled artisans led by a specialist scholar; executing the ruse required a goldsmith, a stonemason, a cabinetmaker, a team of embalmers and an expert on Persian history who knew its ancient language. Obviously, all this painstaking work must have cost a great deal of money. In the end, however, radiocarbon dating proved that, instead of being 2,600 years old, the mummy was at most 45 years old. It was, in fact, the mummified body of a woman who died in the mid-1990s of a broken neck and a massive back injury, and who may have been murdered or whose body may have been stolen shortly after burial.

The British Museum recently created the first virtual reality Egyptian mummy, which has allowed researchers to see detailed three-dimensional (3-fl) images of an important priest called Nesperennub, who died in Thebes around 800 BC, without unwrapping him. The body was reconstructed with a medical scanner and computer graphics technology of a kind used in making the movie The Lord of the Rings. The 1,500 two-dimensional cross-sectional scans were pieced together by visualization software to create a complete 3-D fly-through image that can be viewed from any perspective on a computer It resembles a hologram and shows that the priest was buried with flat, almond-shaped glass eyes, while the top of his head was covered with a strange, unfired clay bowl - for 40 years, nobody at the museum could tell from X-rays what that object could be. The pictures eventually will be used to make a model of the skull, from which an accurate reconstruction of the face will be produced. Meanwhile, visitors to the museum can use virtual reality headsets or polarized glasses to zoom in on the mummy's wrappings or even look out through its eyes. In short, in a few decades science has progressed from the destruction and unwrapping of mummies to the ability to study them thoroughly without touching them.

In another recent study, this time of a Neanderthal skull from St. Césaire, France, about 36,000 years old, scientists detected a healed fracture of the cranial vault, apparently the result of the impact of a sharp implement. This simple wound has revealed a great deal. First, in order to penetrate the bone, the blow must have been inflicted with great speed, probably by a stone tool attached to a shaft. This could not have been an accident or a wound from an animal. Second, the victim recovered, so others in the group must have provided food and shelter while the wound healed. This confirms the evidence we already have from other sites such as Shanidar (Iraq) that Neanderthals were compassionate, caring and supportive to the disadvantaged in their society. As this volume shows, this attitude continued into the late Ice Age and beyond in many cultures.

Finally, In May 2002, a remarkable discovery was announced in France. Close to Clermont-Ferrand, an Iron Age tomb was unearthed containing eight people and eight small horses. Only 328 yards (800 meters) away is the impressive rampart of the unexcavated oppidum (Iron Age town) of Gondole. No tomb like this has ever been found before; multiple burials of Gauls have been discovered, and also buried horses, but never the two together, and certainly never such a spectacular array of both. The seven men and one adolescent were laid out dramatically in two rows, as were the eight horses. All 16 bodies were on their right side, head to the south, and the humans gazing east. Each man has his left arm on the man in front. What is puzzling is that there are no grave goods — no weapons, ornaments, pots, offerings or harness equipment — and no discernible cause of death. So, as yet, nobody knows if these are ritual sacrifices or victims of warfare between tribes or against Romans. What's more, two more tombs have already been detected in the immediate vicinity.

In short, there is no lack of major and exciting finds of human remains coming to light, and the extent of what we can learn about our ancestors never ceases to grow. This book intends to give the reader a mere taste of this field of study, covering the widest possible range of periods — from fossil hominids to Napoleonic troops — and of subjects, from mummies to mayhem. And yet in 50 or 100 years, even the most sophisticated of our current analyses will doubtless seem crude and primitive, such is the pace of scientific development. Our ability to read what is written in bones is constantly improving, and these new discoveries show that plenty of texts still await us.

Read More Show Less

Introduction

Introduction
by Paul Bahn

Human remains have always been an important source of information about many aspects of the past -- and one of the most popular When this book was being put together, no fewer than three series on British television focused on the archaeology of human remains, and the media were inundated with coverage of a necropolis of 2,000 Inca mummies found under a shantytown in Peru; the National Geographic Society screened a TV documentary on this find, which was preceded by sensational articles and photographs in numerous publications.

Mummies are big news. They sell books, such as journalist Heather Pringle's The Mummy Congress, an entertaining account of the often eccentric folk who devote their lives to these preserved corpses. They inspire writers of fiction -- ranging from Edgar Allan Poe to Tennessee Williams and Gustave Flaubert, who kept a mummy's foot on his desk. They arouse wonder, like the 500-year-old mummy of a Chinese of the Ming Dynasty discovered in 2001, a 60-year-old man with supple skin and mustache that was nearly a foot (30 centimeters) long; or a bejeweled elderly female Ming mummy, also found in 2001, who wore a wig to cover her baldness. They draw crowds; when the National Geographic Society put the Andean "Juanita" on show, 100,000 people turned up and waited in lines around the block. Of course they sell movies, particularly the recent The Mummy and The Mummy Returns. And it is no coincidence that the most popular computer game is called "Tomb Raider."

Mummies have even become the focus of fakery and perhaps even foul play - as in the case of the "Persian mummy" that came to light in Pakistan inOctober 2000 and was offered for sale on the black market for $20 million. An elaborate fraud, the mummy, with its beaten gold decorations, was in an ornate wooden box and a stone sarcophagus. Hieroglyphics stated that the body belonged to Rhodugune or Ruduuna, the daughter of Xerxes, the great king of the Persian Empire - but Persia is not known to have practiced mummification. It all proved the work of highly skilled artisans led by a specialist scholar; executing the ruse required a goldsmith, a stonemason, a cabinetmaker, a team of embalmers and an expert on Persian history who knew its ancient language. Obviously, all this painstaking work must have cost a great deal of money. In the end, however, radiocarbon dating proved that, instead of being 2,600 years old, the mummy was at most 45 years old. It was, in fact, the mummified body of a woman who died in the mid-1990s of a broken neck and a massive back injury, and who may have been murdered or whose body may have been stolen shortly after burial.

The British Museum recently created the first virtual reality Egyptian mummy, which has allowed researchers to see detailed three-dimensional (3-fl) images of an important priest called Nesperennub, who died in Thebes around 800 BC, without unwrapping him. The body was reconstructed with a medical scanner and computer graphics technology of a kind used in making the movie The Lord of the Rings. The 1,500 two-dimensional cross-sectional scans were pieced together by visualization software to create a complete 3-D fly-through image that can be viewed from any perspective on a computer It resembles a hologram and shows that the priest was buried with flat, almond-shaped glass eyes, while the top of his head was covered with a strange, unfired clay bowl - for 40 years, nobody at the museum could tell from X-rays what that object could be. The pictures eventually will be used to make a model of the skull, from which an accurate reconstruction of the face will be produced. Meanwhile, visitors to the museum can use virtual reality headsets or polarized glasses to zoom in on the mummy's wrappings or even look out through its eyes. In short, in a few decades science has progressed from the destruction and unwrapping of mummies to the ability to study them thoroughly without touching them.

In another recent study, this time of a Neanderthal skull from St. Césaire, France, about 36,000 years old, scientists detected a healed fracture of the cranial vault, apparently the result of the impact of a sharp implement. This simple wound has revealed a great deal. First, in order to penetrate the bone, the blow must have been inflicted with great speed, probably by a stone tool attached to a shaft. This could not have been an accident or a wound from an animal. Second, the victim recovered, so others in the group must have provided food and shelter while the wound healed. This confirms the evidence we already have from other sites such as Shanidar (Iraq) that Neanderthals were compassionate, caring and supportive to the disadvantaged in their society. As this volume shows, this attitude continued into the late Ice Age and beyond in many cultures.

Finally, In May 2002, a remarkable discovery was announced in France. Close to Clermont-Ferrand, an Iron Age tomb was unearthed containing eight people and eight small horses. Only 328 yards (800 meters) away is the impressive rampart of the unexcavated oppidum (Iron Age town) of Gondole. No tomb like this has ever been found before; multiple burials of Gauls have been discovered, and also buried horses, but never the two together, and certainly never such a spectacular array of both. The seven men and one adolescent were laid out dramatically in two rows, as were the eight horses. All 16 bodies were on their right side, head to the south, and the humans gazing east. Each man has his left arm on the man in front. What is puzzling is that there are no grave goods -- no weapons, ornaments, pots, offerings or harness equipment -- and no discernible cause of death. So, as yet, nobody knows if these are ritual sacrifices or victims of warfare between tribes or against Romans. What's more, two more tombs have already been detected in the immediate vicinity.

In short, there is no lack of major and exciting finds of human remains coming to light, and the extent of what we can learn about our ancestors never ceases to grow. This book intends to give the reader a mere taste of this field of study, covering the widest possible range of periods -- from fossil hominids to Napoleonic troops -- and of subjects, from mummies to mayhem. And yet in 50 or 100 years, even the most sophisticated of our current analyses will doubtless seem crude and primitive, such is the pace of scientific development. Our ability to read what is written in bones is constantly improving, and these new discoveries show that plenty of texts still await us.

Read More Show Less

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2009

    For those who want to know more about the cultures that have left us some clues about themselves.

    The book was not overly technical and explained all the scientific terms that it used. I bought this book for my sister, whose hobbies include studies on how disease has shaped mankind. "Written in Bones" has some studies that include disease, but mostly it is how the new technologies can explain the latest interpretation on how the individuals might have lived and died. The book crosses several reading levels. As for reading material, my sister is more the scholar type and I am more of the student type. My wife reads at a little lower level than either of us. She is very interested in Egyptian stuff. I showed her the parts about Egyptians and she wants to read it all before we send it to my sister. She says that the book was not too technical or too simple. What I liked: easy to read and it had pictures to augment the text. What I did not like: a couple of the case studies could used a bit more information.

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