By William R. Maples
From a skeleton, a cranium, a trifling fragment of burnt thighbone, Dr. William Maples can deduce the age, gender, and ethnicity of a homicide sufferer, the style within which the individual was once dispatched, and, finally, the id of the killer. In lifeless males Do inform stories, Dr. Maples revisits his strangest, finest, and such a lot terrible investigations, from the baffling situations of conquistador Francisco Pizarro and Vietnam MIAs to the mysterious deaths of President Zachary Taylor and the kin of Czar Nicholas II.
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Additional info for Dead Men Do Tell Tales: The Strange and Fascinating Cases of a Forensic Anthropologist
That indicated we were dealing with nothing more sinister than an early twentieth-century graveyard. The whole thing was a fiasco, a false alarm. In 1974, I had two cases. In 1975, two more cases; in 1976, two cases; in 1977, three cases; in 1978—twelve cases! And from then on things began to snowball. ” I doubt the original framers of the law imagined that among those “specimens” would be human remains, still less that those remains would be the ghastly leavings of murderers and maniacs. But over the years I have tried to do my part to repay the generosity and vision of those state legislators of long ago.
Their clothing was half burnt away—their hair and beard entirely; the rain had come too late to save their nails. Some were swollen to double girth; others shriveled to manikins. According to degree of exposure, their faces were bloated and black or yellow and shrunken. The contraction of muscles which had given them claws for hands had cursed each countenance with a hideous grin. Faugh …! —Ambrose Bierce, What I Saw of Shiloh. I seldom have nightmares. When I do, they are usually flitting images of the everyday things I see on the job: crushed and perforated skulls, lopped-off limbs and severed heads, roasted and dissolving corpses, hanks of human hair and heaps of white bones—all in a day’s work at my office, the C.
My specialty, physical anthropology, is distinct from other fields, such as cultural anthropology and archaeology. The cultural anthropologists are the ones who go out and study the exotic tribes, the “fluttered folk and wild,” as the poet Rudyard Kipling called them. The archaeologists look for tools and other evidence of ancient and recent man in the folds and hollows of Asia, Africa and Europe. My field of expertise is the human skeleton. Though some pathologists insist on doing their own skeletal examinations along with autopsies, I can confidently say that there are very few cases in which a forensic anthropologist—someone like me—could not add a great deal of useful information to what a pathologist can discover.