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Written in Bones: How Human Remains Unlock the Secrets of the Dead [Paperback]

Paul Bahn
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 1 2003

Written in Bones brings together a team of international experts to show how the careful study of bones reveals a compelling picture of the lives, cultures, and beliefs of ancient societies from around the world.

This compelling and scientifically-accessible book:

  • Provides 38 case studies examining the discoveries at archeological sites
  • Introduces readers to ancient peoples
  • Includes more than 350 color photographs

Human remains tell us much about how our ancestors lived and died. In Written in Bones, significant discoveries are carefully brought together and analyzed. Readers learn how experts use modern scientific techniques to piece together the stories behind the bones. The data is used to create a picture of cultures and ritual beliefs. There are such astonishing discoveries as:

  • Han Dynasty aristocrat preserved in an unknown red liquid
  • Bog bodies in Europe
  • The riddle of Tomb KV55 - where a male body was found inside a female coffin
  • World's oldest dwarf
  • The headless men and giant wolves of the Mesolithic cemetery in Siberia


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Review

Perfect for general readers interested in this fascinating topic... accessible to a wide range of readers. (Kymberly Goodson E-Streams 2003-12-00)

An excellent survey of the postmortem identification and interpretation of human remains... the text is complimented by beautiful color photographs. (Nikki Rogers Science Books and Films 2004-09-15)

Grisly, gross and utterly compelling ... with 250 color photographs, you may find it hard to put this down. (Greensburg Tribune-Review 2003-02-09)

Well-written... tapestry of science and history will both motivate and challenge readers, it shows how science and history are inseparable. (Charles C. James The Science Teacher 2003-09-00)

A very comprehensive book on the interesting fate of human remains... an informative and fun read. (Sara J.M. Yoshida Canadian Society of Forensic Science Journal 2004-03-00)

About the Author

Paul Bahn, Ph.D. studied archeology at Cambridge University. For this book he worked with a team of 16 contributors from universities around the world. His numerous books, written alone or with a co-author, include Ancient Places, Images of the Ice Age, Journey through the Ice Age and The Cambridge Illustrated History of Archaeology, Tombs, Games and Mummies.


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In addition to the ongoing fascination with the peculiarities of burial ceremonies and mummification, the matter of how life was actually lived in bygone times is a compelling and informative aspect of archaeological discovery. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars "Written in Bones" June 26 2009
Format:Paperback
"Written in Bones" seems like a great read and it succeeds. It is not ripe with information overload but brief summaries of each case study ellicits a reader response to the ones they find most interesting. The case summaries are teasers and a broad range of topics are covered including natural and deliberate deaths, burials and mummies. The way a person is buried can provide information about that person, their society, and/or their group dyanmic. There were a few spelling and grammatical errors mid-way through the book which was a little bit distracting. Many times human remains, specifically burial sites, are the last voice the body has to tell their stories.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting to the last page... June 12 2004
Format:Paperback
Although the writing tends towards the dry and academic, I find this one of the more interesting books on physical anthropology out there. It details dozens of the most well known and important anthropological finds in history, from who killed King Tut, to the legal battle of Kennewick Man, to the brutal murders of the "bog bodies" of Western Europe during the Bronze Age, and beyond. It's extremely facinating, but with each description totalling a few pages at most, I found it almost too brief. I would have loved to been able to read an entire book on just about all the burial finds offered up in "Written in Bones", as the short synopsis of each site feels more like a teaser than a complete story. Definitely a good way to get your feet wet if you're interested in physical anthropology and don't know where to start, or as a sort-of Cliff's Notes of some of the more recognizable finds in anthropology.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great introductory book Oct. 19 2003
Format:Paperback
As an introductory book to archeology and anthropology, this book is without peer. It's individual case studies are detailed enough to spark interest, but short enough not to bog down in details. There are lots of color photographs so the reader can see what the writer is trying to describe. The case studies cover many different parts of the world, including some that one doesn't readily connect with archeology, and many time periods, from 1.5 million years ago to a couple of hundred years ago.
From these case studies one can begin to understand how ancient bodies are yielding their secrets to forensic science. Each case study produces more revelations. For me one of the most amazing was "The Wife of the Marquis of Dai" who died in China some 160 years before the birth of Christ. Her body is almost perfectly preserved and it has been discovered that she suffered from about 10 diseases, including tuberculosis, but that she died from a heart attack due to overeating.
I found this book a delight. I've always been impressed by the way forensic anthropologists can sample, analyze and deduce human stories from these ancient bones. This book presents the results in a very readable fashion and should help to create wider interest and understanding of this fascinating topic.
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars Great introductory book Oct. 19 2003
Format:Paperback
As an introductory book to archeology and anthropology, this book is without peer. It's individual case studies are detailed enough to spark interest, but short enough not to bog down in details. There are lots of color photographs so the reader can see what the writer is trying to describe. The case studies cover many different parts of the world, including some that one doesn't readily connect with archeology, and many time periods, from 1.5 million years ago to a couple of hundred years ago.
From these case studies one can begin to understand how ancient bodies are yielding their secrets to forensic science. Each case study produces more revelations. For me one of the most amazing was "The Wife of the Marquis of Dai" who died in China some 160 years before the birth of Christ. Her body is almost perfectly preserved and it has been discovered that she suffered from about 10 diseases, including tuberculosis, but that she died from a heart attack due to overeating.
I found this book a delight. I've always been impressed by the way forensic anthropologists can sample, analyze and deduce human stories from these ancient bones. This book presents the results in a very readable fashion and should help to create wider interest and understanding of this fascinating topic.
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