Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bill Bass

It wasn't until almost 10 years after taking a human osteology class (study of the human skeleton) for anthropologists and archaeologists, taught by a student of Bill Bass, that I ended up working in forensics.  Years ago, when I was studying to be an archaeologist I used to questioned the sanity of fellow students that were looking to forensics as a career choice.  The Midwest Bioarcheology & Forensic Anthropology Association meeting acronym said it all BARFA.  I only wanted to work with really old bones, the beautifully bleached, not covered in flesh ones.  The funny thing is that I think I'm the only one out of that group that actually got into the field, of forensics, that is.  I think the only foot in the door I had was archaeological excavation experience and a good knowledge of the human skeleton and how to differentiate bone fragments into either human or non-human, which is pretty important every once in a while in my job.  So much of my training has been on the job experience and passing along the know how from one investigator to another.  There really is no school that can prepare you for this work.

I'd never even heard of Bill Bass until I applied for my current position.  Now I think it is pretty amazing that I got some of the best training in human skeletal anatomy from one of his students.  We used to have a box with two holes cut into the sides that we would put each hand in with three "specimens".  One would be something like the fragment of a human bone, the other a piece of turtle shell, and the third would be a piece of primate bone.  You could only feel the specimens, not see them.  We would get extra credit if we correctly identified the two non-human ones only if we could identify which human bone was in the box.  Death's Acre is one of the first books I read when applying for my job to try to enlighten me about what I was in for.  In retrospect, it is a great intro.  It is just that the reality can never be explained, it has to be seen first hand.  

Here's the link to the Body Farm website.  Click home to get the home page instead of the page I linked to with his non-fiction books.  

2 comments:

  1. thanks for the link...I remember hearing about these books but sort of forgot about them... I'll be giving these a read for sure!

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  2. I read the Body Farm a few years ago, when I was thinking about writing mysteries. What an amazing story! Quite a read!

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