Mayan Identity Lost to Looters

The Mayan people, who are indigenous to Mexico and Central America, are publicly perceived as being one the most influential cultures of the Archeological world. While their culture may not be as mysterious as the public imagination believes, it’s slowly being altered by a big issue plaguing archeological sites, looting. As early as 1970, the Mayan city of Xultún , located in northern Guatemala, has been plundered by looters referred to locally as “huechoros”. These huechoros craved tunnels into many of the pyramids adorning the Mayan city and used the tunnels to access the artifacts stored inside. From there the artifacts are takened and placed on the black market to be sold illegally to the affluent for personal want or for display in institutions like  museums. The looted materials included stone figurines and statues, hieroglyphic panels, ceramic pottery, and jade jewelry. Though the amount of looting has decreased in the passed years, archeologists are still trying to fully grasp the damage incurred by the huechoros.


Re-excavation of one of the many tunnels created by the huechoros in an Xultun pyramid

Huechoros, who are often just individuals desperate for money, have inflicted grave harm on not only culture of the Mayans but ultimately their extensive history. The city of Xultún was once a major metropolitan center filled with the rich art, culture, and religion that have contributed to the Mayans identity. For example, stone tablets known as Stelae have been frequent favorites of the looters. These tablets describe the deeds of the Mayan Kings and were seen as very valuable to buyers, so looters would divide the tall stones into small pieces. With the destruction of those tablets came the destruction of Mayan history. No longer are archeologists able to visit sites within Xultan pyramids without the telltale signs of looters being present. Not only aren’t artifacts not being found but the tunnels have allowed for rainwater to travel into the structures damaging the remaining artifacts. These looters aren’t just stealing artifacts but also the existence of the people who left them behind.


A  Mayan Stelae of unknown origins

One of many recovered looted artifacts, a limestone panel

One of many recovered looted artifacts, a limestone panel

The government, in conjunction with archeologists, has enacted several measures to halt the looting of the pyramids. Since a majority of the looting is due to financial strife resulting from Guatemala’s Civil War in the 1960’s, the government has enacted new stable avenues of commerce for communities in the jungle. They have also stationed Guatemalan military officials to patrol the city of Xultún on a 24/7 schedule. Archeologists, on the other hand, are now re-excavating the tunnels left behind by the heuchoros in order to find new artifacts for preservation and future reference. There has even been talk of Guatemala arguing for repatriation of stolen artifacts now displayed in American and European museums and galleries. Though many may only view the stolen artifacts as souvenirs to the Mayans once thriving civilization, they also represent the rich history of a prevalent culture. Archeologists are striving to rediscover and preserve the identity of a people whose culture served as a prime example for the modern civilizations we call home today.

Guatemalan soldier patrolling the border surrounding the Mayan city  Xultun

Guatemalan soldier patrolling the border surrounding the Mayan city Xultun


National Geographic

BBC News

Further Reading:

Looted or Legal?

Stolen Mayan Artifacts Returned

Los Arboles structure under excavation in Xultun

Los Arboles structure under excavation in Xultun

World-Wide Action Against Looting

          Looting is supported by the act of fetishizing the past. This worldwide archaeological con oddly proves beneficial to the economy. Although a functioning economy is desired, this trend of owning such unique and historical artifacts robs it’s the knowledge of the culture that lays behind it. Artifacts are the keys left behind for the world to use to unlock the story of its culture. Looting steals this “key” and makes the knowledge that is “locked up” inaccessible. Because this injustice is such a common occurrence, more and more action has been put into play. Pre-existing looting laws are finally being held to a greater importance.
This movement against looting can be exemplified locally in California’s own “Lake County,” enforcing looting laws for what may be the first time in that area. One reason as to why action has finally occurred is that a drought in the area has created an advantage for looters. The dry land and lower water levels has made it easier to find Native artifacts, making the presence of looting even more noticeable.

Obsidian spears and arrowheads are the most common artifacts put on the black market from Lake County.

Obsidian spears and arrowheads are the most common artifacts put on the black market from Lake County.

The Native American Historic Resource Protection Act exists in California to punish the unlawful disruption of Native American sites. Sadly, this county only began to really acknowledge it when the looting became evident to everyone. This finally led to local authorities being trained in how to put this law into action on the field.
Artifacts stolen from modern-day Native Americans, like many other civilizations, had connected their descendants to their ancestors. Even to those who are not connected to specific artifacts, we all learn what occurred in specific areas hundreds to thousands of years ago, from them. In giving respect to these ancient artifacts, we attempt to heal a part of the past by rescuing their physical history.
Crusades against the horrid of looting have not only occurred locally, but world-wide. As early as World War II, the time of the Nazis, the Monuments Men has taken action in trying to protect artifacts against looters. With the most recent warfare, monuments and ancient artifacts have suffered many causalities. It is known that ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), has destroyed many historic sites and receive funds

Historical and archaeological sites, in Syria and Iraq, that have been looted and destroyed by ISIS.

Historical and archaeological sites, in Syria and Iraq, that have been looted and destroyed by ISIS.

from the “not so” secret world of looting. As a part of the modern world, archaeologists have more resources than they did decades ago, in going against looting: technology and the internet. In the summer of 2014, a team for the Institute of Digital Archaeology helped create a database- the Million Image Database- that digitally documents ancient architecture and artifacts. One of its features is the GPS function, which gives investigators “the time and location-stamped images to see if the artifacts had previously been in one of the documented locations.” During August 2014, the FBI alerted art dealers in high looting countries of the search for stolen artifacts and the importance in going against looting.
The movement against looting has become more widespread due to the accessibility of technology and changing times. Although this is not a new issue that the world is facing, it is finally under the spotlight; change is occurring.

Sources: (Including Pictures)

Further Reading:

The Three Gorges Dam and the Preservation of Archaeological Sites

The Three Gorges Dam along the Yangtze River in China’s Hubei Province is the largest hydroelectric project every constructed. Begun in 1994 and completed in 2009, the dam is a source of hydroelectric power, shipping locks, and flood control for the middle and lower Yangtze River. However, there were quite a few drawbacks of a project flooding an area of more than 600 square kilometers. As water levels rose, nearly 1.3 million people were forced to relocate. The effects of this displacement were devastating to the population and many Chines cultural sites and artifacts, as the places they had to leave behind have some of the oldest history in China.

The Three Gorges Dam is the largest hydroelectric project ever constructed, and flooded 632 square kilometers of land beyond the existing banks of the Yangtze River.

The Three Gorges Dam is the largest hydroelectric project ever constructed, and flooded 632 square kilometers of land beyond the existing banks of the Yangtze River.

Some of the above ground historic sites that were below the final water level have had to be preserved on site or moved. The Baiheliang Stone, the best preserved ancient hydrologic station in the world, has been saved through constructing an underwater museum around it. Shibaozhai, an ancient Buddhist temple built by the Ming emperor Wan Li, is now an island in the center of the new lake, surrounded by a concrete dike. Some structures are being moved altogether, such as Zheng Fei Temple, which was moved one brick at a time and reassembled at a higher elevation. However, much of the above ground archaeology is only left in data collected, as the sites themselves have disappeared beneath the water.

Zheng Fei Temple was moved to higher elevation to prevent it from being submerged

Zheng Fei Temple was moved to higher elevation to prevent it from being submerged

The Three Gorges region is the birthplace of Chinese civilization, but archaeology in the region has traced human habitation of the gorges back to the Paleolithic. In preparation for it to be submerged, over 1000 Chinese archaeologists descended on the region to do what preservation could be done in this culturally rich region before the water covered everything. Budgeting problems hindered efforts both with lack of funds and complications with distribution, but archaeologists have still investigated some 1087 sites throughout the valley, gaining information about habitation of the region as early as 2 million years ago, as well as for nearly every era of habitation since. However, countless more data has been lost to the rising water levels.

Looting, too, has been an enormous problem for the archaeological record as both professional scavengers and local farmers descended on sites throughout the gorge. Many of the sites found in the region were left without surveillance before they were able to be excavated or were submerged. Over the course of dam building, many artifacts from the Three Gorges area went up for sale through dubious channels, most notably a bronze spirit tree dating to the Han dynasty. Though these pieces have been saved from submersion, their context has been destroyed, causing the loss of valuable archaeological data.




Further Reading

More about the Ba people, who flourished in the Three Gorges area until the Warring States Period


More about history and legend in writing about the Three Gorges region

Sustainability of the Aztec Empire

When Europeans arrived in the early 1500s, the Aztecs had one of the largest empires at the time with a population over 200,000. With a massive size and impressive organization and cleanliness, the Aztec empire could be considered one of the more sustainable empires in history. The Aztecs maintained systems of organization of resources that would be admired in today’s society.

The foundation of their sustainability comes down to their use of small, artificial islands that they built to accommodate the growing population, known as chinampas. The Aztec chinampas covered over 12 square kilometers and were highly productive due to the high amount of water and sunlight in the area. The productivity was further increased by the recycling of nutrients. The Aztecs had a method for disposing organic wastes that would fertilize the crops. Human excrement was used often and highly valued in the Aztec society. Urine was usually stored and sold. Reusing excrement prevented it from being released into the environment, preventing the pollution of the lakes surrounding the chinampas.

Chinampa farming

Chinampa farming

Littering and dumping waste was highly frowned upon in Aztec society. Wastefulness was not tolerated at all and in some cases individuals would be sentenced to death for being wasteful. They even had a system for recovering recyclable waste. They also maximized recycling by burning certain materials and then disposing the remainder in chinampas, which helped fertilize the soil.

The Aztec empire had managed to create and maintain, what we would consider today a sustainable materials management system, which is considered the most ideal method for managing waste, conserving resources and protecting the environment.

Although they had an ideal system of sustainability, the empire did not survive the militant conquest of the Spaniards. After conquering the Aztecs, the Spaniards dismantled the waste management system, drained all of the lakes, and built Mexico City over the land.

Overview of the gird-like layout of the chinampas

Overview of the grid-like layout of the chinampas

This begs the question, how long would the Aztecs have survived had they survived the Spanish conquest? With their constant reuse and recycling of organic materials, they minimized their impact on the environment. Because their waste was also considered resources, they showed no signs of exhausting these resources, which is a major issue in the topic in sustainability of today’s society.

With sustainability being a prominent issue today, applying some of the theories and viewpoints that the Aztec empire used as far as waste, adaptability, and resources could help reduce the massive effect that modern society has on the environment.



Further Reading:

The Community Before Central Park


Central Park is one of the most iconic attractions in New York City. It spans over 51 blocks and boasts 843 acres of lawns, ponds, and public walkways. It is easy to believe that Central Park has always been a part of the city, but before 1857, several well-established minority communities existed where the park stands today.

This map shows the former location of Seneca Village

This map shows the former location of Seneca Village

On July 21, 1853, the New York State Legislature enacted a law that designated 750 acres of land to the creation of a public park. The official history of Central Park, provided by the Central Park Conservancy (CPC), states that “socially conscious reformers” created central park with the intent to “improve public health and contribute greatly to the formation of a civil society.” There is no mention of the businesses destroyed, the churches and schools demolished, the families that were evicted. Most public records fail to recognize how Central Park conveniently destroyed many lower income “shanties” inhabited by “land squatters” and the less desirable residents of the city.

A depiction of Seneca Village from an edition of "Harper's Monthly"

A depiction of Seneca Village from an edition of “Harper’s Monthly”

Seneca Village was one, if not the first established African American communities in NewYork City. It was established in 1825 as an all African American community and by 1857, the year of its destruction, it was 30% Irish-American. Despite their portrayal in the newspapers of the time, the residents of Seneca Village owned their property and usually paid taxes. The community had a total of three churches, three cemeteries, and two schools. Records show that over 589 people lived in Seneca Village in its thirty-two years of existence. On a webpage dedicated to the Seneca Village community, the CPC states that despite the fact that “many protests were filed in the New York State Supreme Court, as is often the case with eminent domain,” those living within the boundaries of the proposed park were “compensated for their property.” It tells nothing of how the public petitioned to save their community or the police force used to violently evict families from their homes. By 1857, according to the CPC, approximately 1,600 people, including all 264 Seneca Village residents were displaced from their homes.

Seneca Village is only one community destroyed in the creation of Central Park, and though it is well known now, it took nearly half a century to be found. City records often fail to acknowledge the violent eviction of places like Seneca Village and the difficulty former residents had in reforming the community. Today, many of the neighborhoods and people that existed before the park remain off public records and wait to be rediscovered.


Further reading:


Pictures found at:





The (so-called) “Missing Link” in Human Evolution!

Piltdown Skull

The Piltdown Man skull, partially original (dark) and partially theoretical (beige).

The “missing link” in human evolution? Well, that’s what English archaeologists believed for many years had been discovered when a skull with both human and ape characteristics was revealed by an amateur archaeologist, Charles Dawson. Unfortunately, for decades this hoax would confuse scientists’ insight into the course of human evolution.

In 1912, Dawson announced that he had pieced together parts of a skull found near Piltdown village; while it had an ape-like jaw and teeth, the brain cavity of the skull was large, similar in size to that of a modern human. This seemed to fit perfectly with the idea of humankind’s intelligence pushing forward its evolution. In addition to the skull, the Piltdown site produced animal bones and primitive tools (as well as an artifact that looked suspiciously like a cricket bat), adding to its apparent validity. Many years after Dawson’s death however, scientists working at the Natural History Museum in London proved that the skull was faked; not only were the bones more recent than initially believe, but while the skull fragments were human, the jaw bone had probably belonged to an orangutan. These scientists also found scrape marks on the teeth, suggesting that someone had filed the teeth to give them a more human appearance.

Piltdown Teeth

Piltdown Man’s Jaw and Teeth

The trust in this hoax created a false understanding of human evolution, demonstrating the danger of fraudulent archaeology. British scientists may have been particularly accepting of the new discovery, since they had not yet found any significant prehistoric human remains, unlike their European counterparts; not only that, the new discovery seemed the closest link to modern man yet. Their belief was strong enough that when a scientist in Africa discovered a radically different early human skull, some scientists failed to acknowledge that true step on humankind’s evolutionary path. Until the skull was proved a fake in 1949, this hoax represented one of the biggest anomalies of the evolutionary sequence, hindering scientists trying to comprehend humankind’s past.

Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of this entire story is that the true perpetrator or perpetrators of this hoax have never been definitively identified. Dawson almost certainly was involved, as many of his other “discoveries” have also since been proven fraudulent; however, any number of other leading scientists and philosophers may have had a hand in the deception. Regardless of whether their intentions where to deceive or merely to play a practical joke on the scientific community, this hoax shaped and disrupted understanding of human evolution for nearly forty years, signifying the true menace of archaeological hoaxes.


Image Credits

Piltdown Skull:

Piltdown Man’s Jaw and Teeth:

Interesting Links
This link contains details on a number of the suspects, including Dawson and Arthur Conan Doyle:

A somewhat over-dramatic BBC documentary about the Piltdown Man, focusing primarily on the later discovery of the fraud:

Gender Roles in Aztec Culture – Social Constructs Through the Eyes of Radical Archaeologists

Radical archaeology uses artifacts and sites to disprove contemporary social systems and acts against “class and gender oppression, racism, and discrimination,” according to Elizabeth Brumfiel, an American radical archaeologist and professor and at one point president of the American Anthropological Association. Radical archaeologists’ findings can show alternative ways of life from our current views.

Gender roles are something we see ingrained in everyday life – such as gender-specific bathrooms and more stay-at-home moms than stay-at-home dads. However, these modern American gender roles aren’t the only gender roles possible. Different societies have different ways of thinking about the similarities and differences between the genders, as specifically evidenced in Aztec archaeological findings.

Statue of Aztec earth goddess Cihuacoatl

Statue of Aztec earth goddess Cihuacoatl

Gender complementarity was a prominent aspect of Aztec culture – considering women and men to be different but equally important to the whole of society. Both genders could hold authoritative position within the market – as evidenced by artwork showing women as specialized retailers administrators who controlled wealth and assets. Deities were not exclusively male. Women were depicted as goddesses in sculpture and artwork as well.

Archaeological artifacts also support gender roles in terms of childcare. Women raised the girls, and men raised the boys. From this came a strong binary in the gender roles – although considered complementary, boys and girls were taught different tasks. Spindle whorls, for example, were found in areas in homes where women and girls primarily resided, emphasizing their roles are spinners and weavers.

Radical archaeologists take this information and analyze it to question our own society today – connecting the lives of the ancient past to our cultures today. Did the Aztecs live with exactly the same gender roles as we do today? No. So are gender roles at least partly socially constructed? Yes. Although there was sexism in Aztec gender roles as there is today (women doing indoor work, men doing outdoor), the differences in child-rearing, power structures, and deities are important to note as they are shown to be socially constructed in both contexts.

Ceramic spindle whorl buried with an Aztec woman’s body

Ceramic spindle whorl buried with an Aztec woman’s body

With this we can question and potentially bring about change in our current social structures. We can ask ourselves about whether what we determine “feminine” and “masculine” are biologically or socially constructed, and then adjust our societies to be more accepting and open. Radical archaeology’s creative and thoughtful analysis takes (somewhat) objective findings about cultures common in post-processual archaeology and works on using that information to aim to create a world with less discrimination.

Links for Further Reading on Aztec gender roles and Radical archaeology:


Animal Bones as Tools for Understanding Mayan Social Hierarchy

Studying human remains reveals unique information to archaeologists about a civilization’s customs and traditions.  In addition to cause of death, archaeologists can create a complete profile of the body’s lifestyle based on physiological features combined with intense critical thinking. Similarly, the remains of animals in the area can also provide great insight into a society’s culture by helping archaeologists gain a better understanding of the type of environment that the people lived in.  What kind of predators threatened their safety?  Did they domesticate animals and train them to perform actions to benefit the entire community?  A group of archaeologists used animal remains to analyze a unique aspect of Mayan culture—the interaction between different social and economic classes based on the distribution of animal resources.


This stone-carved depiction of a social-elite seizing resources from a lower class member of Mayan society serves as one of the few examples of art depicting social-class division.


Very little was known about the political and economic systems of Mayan society, as compared to archaeologists’ extensive knowledge of their advances in art and astronomy.  The way animal resources were distributed offered clues to the ways in which different social classes interacted, and archaeologists learned that their societies were not homogeneous by any means.  Instead, there were complicated systems in place to regulate trade relations, food distribution, and accessibility to species.  Because animals were used so widely for hides, tools, jewelry, and musical instruments, studying the geographic distribution of these resources revealed that there were elite classes that controlled a majority of the valuable resources.  But surprisingly, the middle classes used the widest variety of animals, as the wealthiest people only used exotic animals, such as jaguars and crocodiles, and the poorest could only afford to use inexpensive animals, such as a variety of fish and shellfish.

Maya bone

These animal bones, teeth and a cut jaw bone from a tapir, are an example of the ways Mayans used animal bones to create tools and instruments for daily use in society.

The study of animal bones has provided insight into the way Mayan cities interacted with surrounding villages through trade and commerce and has provided such extensive information because Mayan culture relies so heavily upon animal resources accomplish.  I am amazed by the amount of information that the archaeologists were able to infer about human cultures and tendencies from the examination of seemingly-unrelated artifacts.  Similar observations and critical thinking are applied when analyzing human remains as when uncovering truths about a society and their culture.  In the case of the Mayan civilization, the discovery of specific animal remains led archaeologists to believe that there were stricter class boundaries than previously thought.  The emergence of social hierarchy is an aspect of the “big picture” of Mayan civilization and social structure.  Without the creative approach to this investigative archaeology, they would be missing evidence of a significant aspect of Mayan culture which serves as further evidence of the often-overlooked sophistication of the ancient American civilizations.


Further Reading

Archaeology and Climate Change– The Collapse of the Mayan Empire


Climate change is a hot button issue in today’s society. Rising sea levels, disappearing forests, and depleted ozone make headlines as indicators of a society headed towards death by its own hand. Many blame human activity; chlorofluorocarbons destroy the ozone layer, while carbon dioxide emitted by cars and factories causes a greenhouse effect that melts polar ice to and causes sea levels to rise.

While the evidence supporting climate change as a consequence of human activity is strong, it has its opponents. Many argue that global temperatures fluctuate often, and that recorded human history is not sufficient to draw any conclusions about the causality link between rising temperatures and human activity. How, then, do we deliberate between who is right and wrong? As it turns out, Archaeology can help.

picture 1 blog post 2

The Yucatan Peninsula was home to the Mayans until their sudden collapse either during the 8th or 9th century.

The Mayan people arrived in the Yucatan area sometime between 2600 and 1800 B.C.E., growing to 19 million before their collapse around the 8th century. What could have been the reason for a mass exodus of tens of millions from some of the most populated cities in existence at the time? Some propose disease, some foreign invasion; new evidence, however, points to climate change.


Researchers at Arizona State University analyzed archaeological data from the Yucatan Peninsula during the fall of the Mayans. Their findings: during this time, deforestation for agriculture coincided with a severe reduction in rainfall. Additionally, there was a large demand for wood to fuel fires that cooked the lime plaster that was a staple in Mayan construction; some experts figure that each square meter of cityscape required the destruction of 20 trees.

At Columbia University, researchers used data from the region to construct a computer model to simulate the conditions during the Mayan collapse. They found that cleared lands absorb more water, thereby reducing the presence of clouds and rainfall. Their model estimated that deforestation accounted for roughly 60 percent of the total drying that occurred in the area during the time in question (the other 40 percent was a naturally occurring drought).

picture 2 blog post 1

Large Mayan cities like Tikal (pictured above) became poor in the absence of trade, causing many to flee.


Drought on such a large scale in an area with such a high population density was catastrophic. Trade moved from overland routes through the heart of the Mayan civilization to sea-based routes around the peninsula. The Mayan cities relied on trade as a source of income, and the elite that ran those cities relied on it for power. Without trade, Mayan cities became poor and powerless. Peasants fled the cities to avoid starvation, leaving us with the ruins we see today.

The Mayans existed when human activity had done little to alter the earth. With no other external factors at play, deforestation was introduced, and the Mayan civilization collapsed shortly thereafter. This suggests that climate change can in part be blamed on human activity. The archaeology of climate change is important for this reason: the first step in fixing a problem is determining whether or not the problem actually exists. Archaeology and the Mayans have brought us one step closer to the answer.


Futher Reading

Bones in Forensic Anthropology

Most of us know the term “forensic anthropology” from our favorite crime shows, but few people actually know what forensic anthropology is, or what being a forensic anthropologist entails. Hollywood has always been notorious for bending the truth when it comes to the science and technology shown in shows and movies, and the case of forensic anthropology is no exception. Kathy Reichs, forensic anthropologist, author, and one of the producers of the popular TV show “Bones” may have helped to bring forensic anthropology into the limelight, but it’s not as fast-paced or thrilling as it might appear.

Reichs at the Bones 100th Show Party Photo credit: / WENN

“Well, everything we use on “Bones” is real – the technology, the methodologies, the terminologies. What’s different is that in real life every single case does not get solved. You don’t find that, you know, sliver of skin cells in an acre of grass that cracked the case open. You – we won’t make mistakes on our show like having your DNA results in 12 minutes, that sort of thing.” Reich stated in a 2012 interview with NPR. Reich also acknowledges that the advanced equipment shown in the Jeffersonian labs, while real, is not available to most forensic anthropologists, as in the case of the “Angelatron.”

Angela virtually reconstructs the skull and then face of Cleo Louise Eller in Bones season 1 episode 1 according to Brennan’s instructions using the “Angelatron.”

Reich says, “it’s a three-dimensional holographic reconstruction apparatus, and it does exist. Now, have I ever been in a crime or medical legal lab that has one? No. It’s expensive.” Of course, the admittedly drool-worthy technology isn’t the only area in which the show fudges the facts for dramatic effect. Even with a display like this, a forensic anthropologist can rarely determine race with certainty from only a skull– Brennan’s big genius trick from the first episode of the series. Certainly they wouldn’t be able to assume the victim’s actual appearance with such accuracy (though this, too, is an actual practice sometimes used in criminal investigations, known as forensic artistry). As I and the other students of Professor Beisaw’s ANTH 100 class saw for ourselves last Thursday, race is very difficult to assess, because it is a social construct rather than a scientific category.

The earlier seasons, and the first episode in particular, suffer fewer inaccuracies than later episodes (most likely because of the show’s gradual shift from cranial reconstructions to conspiracy theories). When Brennan and her assistant, whiz kid Zack Addy first see the victim’s body, the skull is in pieces, but the rest of the skeleton is intact, so Brennan’s analysis of the victim being “a young woman, probably between 18 and 22, approximately 5’3, race unknown,” is no major leap; as Addy explains to Booth, “epiphysis fusion gives age, pelvic bone shape gives sex.” Hey– those are both real methods of determining age and sex!

Now, most forensic anthropologists spend most of their time analyzing bones only to discover that it’s a bear paw rather than a human hand. Those that do see human remains rarely see them in the context of a murder investigation. Within that small group, it is even rarer that the forensic anthropologist is present at the scene of the crime. Brennan does her first analysis of the body crouching at night, in low light, at the scene. Sorry, for those of you who thought forensic anthropology meant palling around with cops and teaming up with a hunky FBI agent to form a crime-fighting duo. Remember, this is fictional. But don’t discount everything you see– as it turns out, some of the forensics in Bones are downright realistic! Who would have thought?

If you’re interested in learning more about “forensic artists”:

The most and least scientifically accurate Bones episodes:

And an analysis of the inaccuracies in the details of forensics shows:


Kathy Reichs The “Bones” 100th Show Party. 2010. WENN, Berlin. Web. 31 Oct. 2015. <>.

Danna, Jen J. “Forensics 101: Epiphyseal Fusion.” Skeleton Keys. N.p., 13 Dec. 2011. Web. 1 Nov. 2015. <>.

C, Crowder, and Austin D. “Age ranges of epiphyseal fusion in the distal tibia and fibula of contemporary males and females.”NCBI. National Center for Biotechnology Information, Sept. 2005. Web. 1 Nov. 2015. <>.

“Angelator.” Bones Wikia. Wikia, 9 June 2008. Web. 31 Oct. 2015. <>.

Reichs, Kathy. Interview by Ira Flatow. “Meet The Brains Behind “Bones”.” NPR. 31 Aug. 2012. Web. 31 Oct. 2015. <>.