Life as a Forensic Anthropologist Book Analysis

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  2
Wordcount:  503 Words
Date:  2022-03-29

Mary H Manhein, the author of the book; Life as a forensic anthropologist is a legend due to her expertise in deducing the tales told by human skeletons. Her exceptional skills include examining a human remains and determining the cause of death, time of death, gender, race and height thus earning the title "The Bone Lady." Throughout the book, she explains her experience as a forensic anthropologist, giving examples of some of her experiences. The next discussion will help elaborate her works as a forensic anthropologist by briefly analyzing the book.

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One of the scientific techniques that she uses is the clay facial reconstruction technique (page 85) which is also a form of art where clay is placed over the skull to try and visualize what the person may have looked like in real life. Using the technique, the scientist may be able to deduce the face of the victim at hand. Mary used the technique for a number of victims and was able to come up with the actual victim. She used the technique on a petite female; code 91-14, who had been at the morgue for a year with no identification.

Though Manhein has a great mastery of the concepts of anthropology, errors in identification may have resulted from over-reliance on analysis of the skeleton. In page 67, she states that "Bones don't lie, you just have to understand what they are telling you". Fractures caused on bones due to exposure under the sun for extended periods may be judged wrongly as having been generated at the time of death. As such, only someone with a proper knowledge of the bone structure may come up with proper face structure.

From page 64, the author states that anthropologists are only able to describe what they see but are not able to deduce the circumstances surrounding the death at all times. Despite teaching students anthropology, bodies of those donated for studies may seem to receive less respect. It is an ethical dilemma for communities and religions that believe in burying or cremation. Though the families of the deceased can never get full closure, anthropologists take them a step closer towards understanding what transpired.

The greatest disadvantage to this book is that, although Manhein depicts herself as a refined story-teller, the sudden endings and curtness of the stories leave the reader wanting more detail. Manhein begins off every section with zeal, effectively draws the reader into the story, and afterward leaves the reader feeling a sense of deficiency when the stories end too rapidly. There little progression in the book from part to section, and stories that have comparative substance and that could have been displayed together are scattered all through the book. Every section is fascinating in that Manhein brings a little bit of her biography [End Page 485] into each case, yet in the event that readers are searching for a detailed depiction of the discipline of Forensic Anthropology they will be disappointed.


MH Manhein (1999) The bone lady: life as a forensic anthropologist LSU Press

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