Since viewing a Discovery channel’s documentary on the latest findings with King Tut, I’ve had a serious fascination with dead stuff. It is telling that much can be gleaned from the tissues and bones of dead people. In addition, it seems that young Tut wasn’t the media hyped athletic, handsome young pharaoh who expired from broken leg complications resulting from a fall in a chariot race. Genetic analysis says his short life, the result of 2 generations of incestuous brother-sister marriage, was plagued with defects; a club foot, facial deformities, poor health, a limp, and two daughters born prematurely, unable to survive the 3 rd generation of inbreeding. Analysis of his bones demonstrate that he likely expired from an infection which set in after a leg fracture. So much can be told from surroundings and placement of bones, bodies, mineral content, etc..
It’s all really fascinating, BBC’s Walking with Cavemen, Nova’s Becoming Human.. to name two. Go to YouTube and you’ll really find it all! And then there’s the BBC’s documentaries on the examination of Richard the Third’s skeleton, the bones of ancient battles, and the bones of middle age people. Much of what we believe is true that in the past, life was short and brutish, but it was not always the case that people did not care for their seriously ill companions. For example, the examination of a skeleton belong to a 40+ year woman revealed she suffered from leprosy, likely from an early age, but was cared for until she died. She could not have possibly survived on her own in the elements due to the ravages of the disease. She lived in a community, where she cared for throughout her life despite the abhorrence and fear of leprosy.
So true to form, I have come across a gem of a blog; Bones Don’t Lie, by Katy Meyers Emery, a PhD grad student specializing in mortuary anthropology at Michigan State University. The entire site is a compendium, a treasury of everything related to death in the past and present. Now this is a broad statement; virtually everything is related to death as all life reaches that state eventually. Inanimate objects such as rocks, buildings and bicycles filling that bill as well through weathering – natural entropy. From Big Foot to the Leprosarium of Saint-Thomas D’Aizier, medical history, the social, demographic, and ethical implications of disease, giant creäture myths, population movements, wars, etc., can be derived from the study of the bones of people and the animals they lived with and ate. The blog seems to start as a boilerplate, yet goes on and on via ‘links to’. It should be a book, a great book – it be her dissertation. My favorites from her site and linking to: WHO DIED IN THE LEPROSARIUM OF SAINT-THOMAS D’AIZIER?, CHALLENGE ACCEPTED: IS THERE ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE OF BIGFOOT? (PART I), and THE EARLIEST EXAMPLE OF DECAPITATION AND WHY ARCHAEOLOGISTS SHOULD LEARN TO DRAW.