Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Webinar: A Tour of the Written in Bone Website

Webinar: A Tour of the Written in Bone Website

Air date: May 19, 2020

Nicole Webster:
Hello everyone. My name is Nicole Webster and I'm the Manager of School and Youth Programs at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. While our museum is closed, I'm coming to you live from my home in Falls Church, Virginia. Today, we are going to be doing one of our Teacher Tuesday webinars, and we're going to be getting started in just a few minutes. Before we get started, I'm going to put up a poll and I would like you to tell me what grade levels you teach. You probably saw in the registration that the Written in Bone website was something that was originally created for grades 4-12th. But we'll talk about this a little bit throughout. There's been lots of opportunities to take it down a couple of grade levels, definitely taking it up a few levels, but just keeping in mind this was created originally for 4th-12th grade, but there is a little bit of flexibility there.

Nicole Webster:
All right. I am seeing a little bit of everything. Fantastic. Lots of 6-8th, a strong showing from 3rd-5th, high school, some undergrads and graduates, and also some PreK-2nd grade. Well, welcome everyone. I hope there's something that's going to be really useful for all of you. I'm going to end this poll now. All right. As everyone still is joining, I'm going to go over some details about today's program. Each week for Teacher Tuesday, we feature a different digital resource for teachers and educators, and we cover how to navigate and best use those resources. You can submit any questions you have about the resources we are featuring using the Q&A feature. Now, you're only going to be able to see the questions that you submit in that Q&A feature. After the resource spotlight, we'll also have a little bit of time to open it up for any other general questions about our resources or for you to express any areas where you might need some support or direction.

Nicole Webster:
This week, like I mentioned, we're going to be taking a deep dive into one of our teaching resources, the Written in Bone website. So I'm going to suggest that right now you open an additional tab in your web browser so you can follow along as we take you through these web resources. And as always, we're always interested in hearing from you. So after this, you're going to see a link to a survey. We would love your thoughts in how we can make this even better for teachers.

Nicole Webster:
A couple housekeeping items. Your comments are only going to be visible to Smithsonian staff and all of your microphones and cameras have been turned off. For this program and for all of our digital programs moving forward, our chat feature has now been turned off, so we're only going to be using the Q&A. This program is being recorded and it will be archived on our website, so you can revisit it to check a reference or share later with colleagues. After the program, we are going to be sending out an email and it's going to have links to all of the things we talk about, so you don't have to worry about bookmarking or anything like that. Everything we talk about and also where the archive is going to be, we're going to be sending you those links.

Nicole Webster:
All right. It looks like we have a few people still joining, but I'm going to introduce our featured expert because today we're joined by forensic anthropologist Kari Bruwelheide. Hi, Kari.

Kari Bruwelheide:
Hi. Do you want me to pop on here?

Nicole Webster:
Yeah, great to see your face. Great.

Kari Bruwelheide:
Okay. Here I am.

Nicole Webster:
All right, Kari. Where are you joining us from today?

Kari Bruwelheide:
I am joining you for my very poorly designed workstation/dining room table in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Nicole Webster:
Fantastic. Can you tell us a little bit about your role with the museum and what a forensic anthropologist is?

Kari Bruwelheide:
Yeah. I have worked for about 28 years at the Museum of Natural History as a forensic anthropologist. And in that role, I study human skeletal remains. We do that for several reasons. The types of information contained in bone can tell you more about a person than any other type of information, we believe. And looking at the clues in bones, we can establish identity of individuals, age, sex, ancestry, and of course applied to modern forensic cases, this can help solve crimes. But you can actually use the same types of techniques to establish personal identities. And more than that, life stories of people from the past. So individuals that have never had a word written about them, we can now learn their story and also the greater history through their human remains. I love the field, it's very diverse and it just, it's so informative about the human condition in both the contemporary context and in the past.

Nicole Webster:
Great. And then today you were showing the teachers the Written in Bone webpage, which was originally created as part of an extremely popular past exhibit, Written in Bone: Forensic Files of the 17th-Century Chesapeake. Can you tell us a little bit about that exhibit and its creation?

Kari Bruwelheide:
Yeah. That exhibit ran for almost five years at Natural History, I think from 2009 to 2014. We're not exhibit designers but we felt really compelled to share our field, how we do what we do and why we do what we do, with the public. And of course it was very timely because forensics is a very hot topic now on television shows and it actually coincided well with the archeology and work that's being done in this region, because some of the most earliest colonial sites were being discovered at that time, and along with it, the bones and burials of the first colonists. So it really just came together very nicely and we were able to present our field in what we felt was a very informative way, but kind of dovetailing off of the public's interest in forensics.

Nicole Webster:
Fantastic. And if you have never seen the Written in Bone exhibit, we actually do have an archived virtual tour of that. So we will be sending that as one of the links. Before we dive into this resource, I have one more poll for everyone that I'm going to launch. We would like to know if you have ever used the Written in Bone webpage as a teaching resource, just to have an idea if anyone is already familiar or if this is going to be the first time a lot of you are going through. Whew, I am seeing almost entirely "nos," Kari. So this is going to be a great day. So we're going to show you this awesome resource.

Kari Bruwelheide:
You don't know what you've been missing.

Nicole Webster:
I know. All right. It looks like everyone so far has voted no. They have not used this before. Awesome. All right. Excited to take you on this journey. All right. I am going to share my screen with everyone. All right. Sharing my screen. I want to give everyone a second to first just go to the Natural History website. Take a minute. Like I mentioned before, open that web browser and just find that our website. I will pull it up for you. My screen share has stopped, so you are accurately not seeing it. You're going to go to naturalhistory.si.edu.

Nicole Webster:
Everyone, this is the web page that you should be seeing. If you go here, we have our education page, and there should be Written in Bone. So there is a long one, and I'm going to stop my share. I'm hearing that some people can't see my page. So I'm going to try my screen sharing one more time.

Nicole Webster:
All right. How about now? Do you see that? Okay. All right. Written in Bone. So we go through Written in Bone. There's going to be five sections we're going through now. Our first one is Skeleton Keys. We have Forensic Case Files. We have our webcomic, Secret in the Cellar. We have a general page on forensic anthropology, and then we have Unearthing the Chesapeake. So these are all really great sections and we're going to be diving in here, but we are going to be starting with Skeleton Keys. On the Skeleton Keys page, there are going to be a couple of different sections that are really great. We have a video on skeleton growth. We have some links on bone basics. We have a section on bone biographies, and then there's also a section on today's bones.

Nicole Webster:
Kari mentioned that they do a lot of historical resource, so how are our bones today different from those of the 17th and 18th century, because of all the changes in lifestyle. So we are actually going to start up here with bone basics first today. All right. Kari, what would you like to lead us through first?

Kari Bruwelheide:
Well, this was the very first section of the Written in Bone exhibit for a reason. It provides you with just all of the general information that you'll need to progress through the rest of the sections, but I'm glad we started with this anyway because of the wide variety of teachers that have joined us. The information contained in bone basics can be geared towards kindergartners or even preschoolers to teach them about the skeleton, the human skeleton and bones, why we have them, the functions they serve, and then the very basic types of information that is contained in our bones and in our teeth.

Kari Bruwelheide:
We don't have time to go through all of these sections, but Nicole, if you want to just hit on, for example, male and female, how do we identify or distinguish males from females in the human skeleton? What we've done is we provide very basic introductory information, and then we actually point out certain features in the bones that you can see and identify as male or as female and why these are different between us. For example, here we're looking at the side of a hip bone. The left is that of a male, the right is that of a female. And if you look closely at that little angle, maybe you can highlight it, Nicole, with your pointer there; in females, that's a much wider angle. It approaches 90 degrees. In males, it's more narrow. It serves the function of giving birth in females.

Kari Bruwelheide:
If you scroll down further on this, it actually points out some of the features, how they're different, how they're similar. So comparisons are a big part of this introductory section. And then if you scroll down further, there's actually a link where you can get more detailed information if you want it. And actually have students try and do comparisons themselves and see if they can identify the differences. So again, this section has how we determine age, how we determine sex, how we establish ancestry, even how we establish non-human bone from human bone, because that's a very difficult thing to do if you're not used to looking at a variety of skeletal remains.

Kari Bruwelheide:
So again, this is just a jumping off point, a basic bones 101 for teachers to go through, pick out the information. And then for their students to get more in-depth information, I would really advise you to go online and find more detailed websites specifically geared to what you're after. But age, sex, ancestry, these features are clues that all of us share. Each of us has these qualities in our skeleton. If you go down to bone biographies, this is where it really gets interesting because even though we all share features of our age or sex or ancestry, each one of us has unique skeletal qualities that make our story different from any other.

Kari Bruwelheide:
And so this section gets into how these are written. So if you just hit on how bone biographies are written, and scroll down, it starts talking about, okay, why is my skeleton unique from any other? It's because of my activity, how I am engaged throughout the course of my life, how I use my body. It deals with different diseases that I might've had that nobody else has. It deals with diet and nutrition. Each of us has a different dietary background. And then of course at the very end, it deals with trauma. And this is how in instances we establish identity. If you have a fractured bone that has healed in your life, that will be recorded. Especially nowadays, if you scroll down, there is medical replacements. We show what those look like. And also cause of death is a big component for forensic casework. And postmortem damage. People don't realize that our skeletons change even after we're dead.

Kari Bruwelheide:
And so we bring in this language, postmortem, perimortem, antemortem, which is really great to introduce these different words to middle school and high school kids. But again, it's how our skeleton is unique from any other skeleton. It's a combination of these features that occur during our lives and even after our death. So again, this is just an introductory section, but it's a great one. You can use it, like I said, for students of any grade level. I have taught kindergarten classes on just human bones, what our skeletons are, how many bones we have in our body, and the functions that they serve. So all of that information is presented in this section, but it's presented in a very general way.

Nicole Webster:
Awesome. All right. And then, like I mentioned, there's also the section on today's bones for you to explore later with your students, but that is the general overview of what is in that Skeleton Keys section. And then if we go back, we're actually going to jump to this here, Unearthing the Chesapeake, for our next section.

Kari Bruwelheide:
Yeah. This section is great because it forms kind of a bridge between the general information that is contained in the skeleton and then the archeology and the history of the mid-Atlantic region. Of course, we're here in the Chesapeake. So that's what we focused on. The earliest European sites, the colonial sites were here. And so it deals with the history in this region. So if you could scroll down, Nicole, finding the evidence is a really, really great section, because if you click on finding the evidence, it talks about the archeology, how bones are found, how they're excavated. The crucial piece of evidence found in the context. Most people think we go out and actually look for bones. But when we deal with historic remains, just like in forensic context, they usually appear unexpectedly.

Kari Bruwelheide:
And so this section here kind of talks about how bones are found and then once they are identified, how they are excavated and the evidence collected in the field. There's a great video that's kind of a time lapse of an excavation that is being conducted at Jamestown, I believe. So it speeds things up. You don't have to be there for weeks that it would take to excavate even a single burial. They do it in like 30 seconds. But it's, as I said, a good introduction to the basic field of archeology, because that's a big part of what we do, and how important those initial clues are in where bones are found and what they look like when they're uncovered in the field. And we'll be coming back to that in each of the Forensic Case Files that the website presents.

Nicole Webster:
All right.

Kari Bruwelheide:
The other thing in this section, just let me see, if you go back to Unearthing the Chesapeake, just a couple of really important points to make in this section is not only does it give you kind of the foundation of archeology and bioarchaeology for those teachers who are high school or even college level. So many students want to do bioarchaeology now, but it gets into then the history around these burials that are being presented because just like the physical context of where bones are found, the historical context is equally as important. What is happening in this region at the time that these individuals were alive and were buried.

Kari Bruwelheide:
Some of these sections touched specifically on the history, the history of James Fort, Jamestown, the history of St. Mary's City. If you go down further, it talks about the development of tobacco and labor in the Chesapeake. And that specifically includes the beginning of slavery. So we wanted to bring in a special section on Africans in the Chesapeake. Certainly for English colonists, we have little information, but at least we have some for these African individuals who are brought to the Chesapeake. We have virtually nothing besides the records of the slave ships logs or property records of the owners. So, how we identify and tell the African story through the human remains is really important because the skeleton offers this tangible piece of evidence that we can go to to say these people were here and participated alongside the English story, the European story.

Kari Bruwelheide:
So that's a great section too for teachers to hit on. And then the final section, Living and Dying in America, is really interesting. If you're interested in medicine, in healthcare, in the types of diseases, we're dealing with a big pandemic now. These people certainly dealt with a number of similar but also different issues in their time period because of their healthcare. Their knowledge of the human body and medicine was very different at the time.

Kari Bruwelheide:
Some of these categories hit on what was affecting the health and the lives of these colonists. And it's a really interesting comparison to look at that next to what we're dealing with today. There are definitely similarities and there are differences, of course. So these sections are great to, again, step into the historic past and start using science to look at history and our national heritage, our national story.

Nicole Webster:
Great. All right. We are going to go back to the main page. As of now, we've gone through two of the sections, Skeleton Keys, and then we were just in Unearthing the Chesapeake. So now we're going to go into Forensic Case Files. In this section, there are eight different case files, so modern and also historical. There is a mix here that cover historical cases, mostly from Virginia and Maryland. So if you're local to this area, lots of great ties to the curriculum. And I believe a lot of people do have to teach around Jamestown. So it's a nice, like Kari had mentioned, combination of science and historical. But we are going to dive into two cases here and we are going to start with The First Fatality, which focuses on Jamestown.

Kari Bruwelheide:
Yeah. We decided to begin with this one. There are eight cases, as Nicole mentioned, and they offer a real variety of identities and also locations throughout the Chesapeake. We did this specifically because we wanted to represent stories that are not told in the historic documents of the time period. This is a great case to start with because it's the story of a teenager. Most people don't think about kids as being part of those early colonial stories. But in fact, they were a huge part. And again, in each of these Forensic Case Files, we bring in the three lines of evidence. We bring in the context, where bones were recovered and what they looked like in the field. We bring in the skeletal evidence, of course, which is what our main research entails. And then we bring in, again, what is happening in the historic context at the time.

Kari Bruwelheide:
So any historic documents, primary resources we use to build these Forensic Case Files. So if we look at this first one, The First Fatality, the text kind of jumps ahead of the story because I don't want to give it away. So scroll down and look at this picture. This is the context, the evidence at the scene. And we deal with these historic cases just like we would a crime scene. So we go in, after the skeleton is excavated by the archeologists, in this case at Jamestown, and we start recording the clues. I love this story because I can show this picture to students and immediately, without any training, I can ask them questions and we can start collecting these clues.

Kari Bruwelheide:
If you look at this skeleton, you can immediately see how it's laid out. This is not a typical burial that you would think a person would be buried as. Look at the arm, the right arm there. I don't know if you can see. I'm pointing at my screen, but that doesn't do any good. His right arm is all cockeyed. It's at an odd angle. It's not repositioned. The head of his humerus, his upper arm bone, is actually behind his neck. Now, I always have students try and kind of configure their arm to see if they can get their shoulder behind their neck, and I haven't had one yet that can do it. So we talk about how this is a clue that that shoulder would have been damaged when that body was put in the ground.

Kari Bruwelheide:
We also carefully look at the little stone arrowhead that is just positioned with the point towards the femur. This is a tip of an arrow that undoubtedly was embedded in the tissues of his leg at the time he was buried. So again, we have evidence of a traumatic death. We can start compiling these clues. So, just looking at him right away, we can tell he probably was an individual who didn't have close family with him, who would have taken more care in his burial. He has suffered an incidence of trauma that undoubtedly led to his death. Again, if we did more detailed examination of the grave, you would realize that it's very shallow. It doesn't even fit his whole body. He's kind of compressed into it. So it's a very hastily dug burial. It's also right against the original James Ford Palisade wall. And so where it's located on the island, and within that Fort, is critical too.

Kari Bruwelheide:
Then we move to the skeletal clues. It's again, age is identified as a 15-year-old boy. He has these evidence of trauma, but he also has, if you scroll down, a unique feature that you may not think is important but definitely plays into his story. He has broken teeth in the front of his jaw. These teeth, we were able to do microscopic analysis and see that they were broken before he likely got on the ship in 1607, and it caused a very, very large abscess in his jaw that would have weakened him significantly in that he would have been more susceptible to an attack, a violent encounter. And then the really, really cool-

Nicole Webster:
There's a question about the burial, first, Kari, to interrupt. Would there have been a wooden box around him when he was buried?

Kari Bruwelheide:
Yes. We can identify if there is a coffin or not. And in his case, the coffin would usually totally disappear, it decomposes. But what you have are the metal nails that are always corroded but they're intact in the soil, intact enough that people have even reconstructed how the coffin was built by recording the positions of the nails. We talk about that elsewhere in the website. But he had no evidence of a coffin, I should mention that. In fact, we look at the position of the bones and we then say, well, was he buried in a shroud? Because most burials in the early 17th century didn't have a coffin, they had a winding sheet or a shroud. In his case, I don't think that was the case because, one, he has no... usually you get a green stain from the pin that actually secured the shroud. He doesn't have that.

Kari Bruwelheide:
And also his foot bones, if you look at his feet, they are right up against the wall of the burial. But if you have a covering over the bones, even a winding sheet, sometimes the feet can fall to the side. His do not do that. They're upright, which means they were likely surrounded with soil when he was put in the ground. So again, that's a great question, because we definitely look at the presence of a coffin or not. And the fact that he doesn't have one, again, plays into a hasty burial, very rushed. And if you scroll up to the top, we have the historical context. Jamestown is a very unique site because we actually have two or three journals from individuals who survive that first year, 1607 to 1608, and they talk about their experiences.

Kari Bruwelheide:
They certainly don't mention every single thing that happened, but in this case, two people, including John Smith, say that 14 days, about two weeks after they landed on the island, they were attacked by the native peoples. And in that attack, a boy was slain. People might think, well, it's a reach, how do you know that that's a boy? Well, we definitely know he was killed in an Indian attack, but the real thing that sealed this and made us convinced that this was the boy who was killed is that the journal goes on to say, and a day later, a man who was also injured in the attack died and was buried.

Kari Bruwelheide:
And two years ago, we happened to do an excavation of a grave that was right near the boy. And sure enough, it was also a man who died a violent death. He had trauma to his head and he was even more strangely positioned in his shallow grave with his arms up like this as if they just dragged and placed his body in that hole. So Jamestown, we have evidence of this First Fatality that you wouldn't think it would be possible to match a grave with an event 400 years ago. But in this case, we feel pretty confident we were able to do it. Again, it's a story of a teenage boy. It ends in a very violent and sad way, but it hits home the point that they were there with these man helping to settle the island. So it's a great story and it has all the clues, all the evidence in one package.

Nicole Webster:
Great. And then we're going to go back, I'm going to show one more case, which you may have heard of. I think it was all over the news when it came out and that's Discovering Jane, about the discovery of Jane at Jamestown. Who was Jane, Kari?

Kari Bruwelheide:
Yeah. All of these cases I love and I could talk about for a long time. Jane is really unique because the evidence of her story did not come from a formal burial, first of all. It was a handful of bones really that were found in a trash deposit related to James Fort. It was only a partial cranium and the proximal end of her shinbone, her tibia, that were recovered. But taking that bone, doing a very thorough analysis of it and then looking at the context and then the history surrounding it, wow, what an incredible story. Her story is evidence of survival cannibalism at James Fort. Talk about things that will catch your student's attention, mention cannibalism and you have them right there. Not for every student in every class, but definitely a topic that shows the harsh reality of history.

Kari Bruwelheide:
If you scroll down, and what you see... Before we do that, go back up. This is a forensic facial reconstruction, and I should mention throughout the website, we do have examples of forensic facial reconstruction. Hers is pretty incredible because we'll look at the bones that were found and you'll wonder, how can you possibly create a likeness from those, but there's a great video that shows how you take her partial cranium and you can actually rebuild it based on the pieces that are there. And then the methods used are pretty standard methods that we use in forensic casework to create likenesses.

Kari Bruwelheide:
These are not the accurate picture of that person but their likenesses. That's what you see here. When you scroll down, evidence at the scene, here's a picture of her partial cranium next to a clay pot. Again, these bones were found in a trash deposit with non-human bone, animal bone that was butchered. This trash was redeposited in a cellar that was then filled in at Jamestown, and based on the evidence of the fill, they were able to date it to the starving time period of 1609 to 1610. Scroll down a little further and you can see the skeletal evidence. The top picture shows everything that was recovered. You have a partial cranium, a mandible, and three pieces of tibia. Scroll down a little more, Nicole. You can see the arrows point to clues indicative of age. So even though these bones were not necessarily right together, they are all consistent with a young person. Again, only 14, 15 years old. They all are consistent with a female.

Kari Bruwelheide:
We did chemical analysis to show that this was a person right from England because dietary signal can change through an individual's life. So all of that information created her biological profile. And then if you scroll down further, it talks about the starving time. But I think there's also images, aren't there, Nicole, of, yes, the real evidence of the cannibalism. These show the marks that are present on the cranium, on the mandible. There's also cuts on the tibia piece that are indicative of butchering. We look at these microscopically. There's a great video that actually shows the cuts in a little bit more detail. And yes, it's grizzly to think about, but you can actually recreate the events of the butchering by looking at these cut marks in detail.

Kari Bruwelheide:
We go down and the text describes a little bit more how we do that. And then the final video, as I mentioned, talks about the cut marks, but also does the reconstruction kind of in fast time. So, it's an incredible story and it's a great learning tool to look at how the science informs the history, because they had journals from survivors of the starving time that said they resorted to survival cannibalism. But historians look back on that now and say, "Oh, they were exaggerating. It didn't happen. There's no evidence." Well, now we have evidence. So it's a really compelling story of a young woman.

Nicole Webster:
Great. All right. So then we'll back out of Forensic Case Files. Like we mentioned, there's eight. They're all really interesting. So depending on what type of case you want to connect to your class, maybe time period, there's lots of options to choose from there. And then we're going to dive into our webcomic next, which normally, if teachers have used Written in Bone, the webcomic is something that's especially good, use a lot for those elementary grades that they find are usable. When we transition this website to our new web page, it's now more of a PDF, but I will show you that and we'll launch in a little bit.

Nicole Webster:
But associated to this webcomic, there's a list of different activities. So things like male versus female are all in there. And then there's also a text only version of the webcomic and then a printable version. So if you would prefer to kind of crop out, assign different things, pull into pieces. One of the nice things that did happen when we transitioned was that it did make everything a lot easier for teachers kind of just to pull out pieces that they wanted to show. So Kari, can you tell us a little bit about the case that this webcomic was based on?

Kari Bruwelheide:
Yeah, this comic is based on an actual case and it is presented in the Forensic Case Files as the Bondservants' Bargain I think is what it's called. It was, again, an instance where human bones, a skeleton was found in a very unusual context. It's truly a forensic cold case. This is not a normal burial. We believe it was an incidence of murder. And in this case, it was a field school. We have a former intern of ours is the main character in the comic. She participates in this field school and they're excavating a colonial cellar. For anybody who knows archeology, cellars are a fantastic place to learn about people and their lives because these cellars were actually trash deposits.

Kari Bruwelheide:
What you had was a trap door in the floor of a home, and they would put all of their refuse just in their cellar. It was a convenient deposit. The field school was excavating this cellar and in the corner of the cellar, this student, our former intern, actually excavates and finds a human skull. She excavates further, and it is a complete burial. It's in a very tight, flexed position in the corner of this cellar covered with trash. The rest of the comic then goes on to put together the clues to identify who this person was and how they ended up in this basement clandestine grave.

Kari Bruwelheide:
The characters in the comic are all based on real people who participated in uncovering this story. Again, it's full of intrigue, but the evidence that is there is so compelling. I mean, even down too there's a piece of pottery that's found directly on top of the skeleton. It's a piece of a milk pan, which is a woman's article. We looked at the piece, the edge of the milk pan, and there's dirt embedded in it. We determined that it was the actual tool that was used to dig that grave. Again, who would think that you would get all of those clues and could compile this compelling case.

Kari Bruwelheide:
It's also interesting from a historical perspective because putting together all the different lines of evidence, if you go through you'll see this, we're pretty convinced that this is an indentured servant. Most people don't know about indentured servitude, what it was, how important it was within settlement of the colonial Chesapeake, and the really hard lives that these individuals had. So we bring in the historic context of what was happening in the Chesapeake at this time that this individual lived and died. We were able to make that association with indentured servitude in this specific case. So it's, again, a really cool merger of science with the history to bring in this compelling story that was never recorded in the history books. It makes history come alive, it really does.

Nicole Webster:
And this is just one of those fantastic examples of being flexible for multiple grade levels, because we have this webcomic that has these associated things where you can pop out and learn a little bit more. But then if you go to the Forensic Case Files, you can see some more of the actual images and go into a different angle. And then if you wanted to go on even further, when you go through the virtual tour, you can see him in the exhibit and how he was displayed and how the exhibit team chose to tell his story. So there's multiple ways to look at this, which I think is really cool.

Kari Bruwelheide:
Yeah. And in his case, we did not just a forensic facial reconstruction. We did a whole body reconstruction which is pretty cool. So yeah, it's a neat story.

Nicole Webster:
Okay. All right. So then we have one more section that we are going to be going through today before I open up for your questions for Kari. And there's a lot in this section. This is a little bit of a catch-all talking about what anthropology is at the museum. There's different divisions. So what physical anthropology is. As Kari mentioned, a section on forensic facial reconstruction, which is really interesting in a way to bring in art into all these things. You've seen how history is natural, so is art. Some things about becoming a forensic anthropologist. I know there's always, especially when you see how cool these things are, a lot of people wonder like how do you become one.

Nicole Webster:
About the skeletal research collections at the museum. That's one thing that a lot of people don't realize is we do collections based research at the museum. Forensic anthropologists know these things by looking at hundreds and thousands of skeletons, and we have a research collection and it's actually available. I know there's some people on this call, they're either in undergrad or grad school where they teach those. These are research collections that if you have a student that's doing something, they're doing a dissertation for grad school, they can email and say that they would like access to this collection when we're back open. And you can actually go in and research and use some of these bones. You can also donate your body if you want that. I'm sure Dave would be happy to have you, a little bit. And a couple of additional videos here.

Nicole Webster:
But one of the things that we wanted to show you today. I know most of you mentioned that you didn't know that this site even existed. Here's one thing that I think even people that know that this site exists don't realize exist, and it's this 3D Tour of Colonial Jamestown. We are going to be linking to the full Smithsonian 3D site, but there is, as just one piece, a scan of an excavation at Jamestown. There's all of this associated information, and it takes you through different angles and different like closeness of where the scan is, and it's just an incredible way to look at Jamestown from a different angle to really think about that excavation process and to get really close to some of these excavations. Kari, do you want to tell us a little bit more about this 3D scanning and how it's used?

Kari Bruwelheide:
Yeah. We're constantly trying to apply new technologies and new methods to record the information and then interpret the bones, and 3D scanning is a part of that. Certainly we hear about 3D scanning now in a variety of different contexts and a variety of applications, but in this case it is proven to be an excellent method for recording a field excavation because not only can you go back and have other people visit the site virtually, but the archeologists, more importantly perhaps, has a permanent record of whatever they're looking at, whatever was scanned in situ in the ground before it was taken out. Because once you take something out of the ground, out of its original context, that information is generally lost forever.

Kari Bruwelheide:
Well, now we have a way of recording that that is three dimensional. It goes beyond photographs. But this whole section is really amazing not just because of the 3D scans that we have of these four burials, and I should mention that they too have incredible stories. These men are not included in the Forensic Case Files, but there are four individuals, again from Jamestown, they were buried in the altar area of the 1608 church, the very first formal church at Jamestown. And in excavations of the Fort, these four burials were discovered. We were actually able to assign identities to all four of these men by name. This takes you through what those graves look like. The caption on the right hand side gives you incredible historical context of each individual and how their stories were compiled. What I really like about this site is that it gives you videos of the actual historians, the archeologists, the skeletal biologists, who compiled the information, and they're explaining it to you; what evidence was collected and how they interpreted it.

Kari Bruwelheide:
Two of these burials, I should mention, also have artifacts, which is extremely unusual for 17th century graves and the artifacts are the most amazing things. What you see in this is a captain sash. These are silver threads with little spangles on the end. And if you looked at the actual evidence, the block of dirt that these are embedded within, you would never imagine that such an amazing artifact was there, but the team was able to take it to a lab to get computer tomography done. You can actually look inside the clump of dirt and you can view this incredible object. Likewise, another grave had a silver box that was a reliquary that gives a whole bunch of historical information about religion at Jamestown.

Kari Bruwelheide:
But that too, that silver box, we weren't able to open because it was rusted shut and we didn't want to incur any damage to that artifact. So what they did, again, was they used special visualization to go inside and actually model out the little fragments of bone and then Ampullae, which contained holy water that was inside this little box. And so this site just has, again, like Nicole said, so much information. It has cool technology that students really love to play around with. It allows you to virtually go in and visit a burial excavation as it was being conducted. And it gives you all of the context and clues in written form and also videos. So you couldn't ask for a more tight package if you wanted to show your students an actual field excavation.

Nicole Webster:
Fantastic. All right. What I'm going to do now, because we have about 10 minutes left, is I'm going to stop my share and just open the floor for any questions you may have of Kari about her job, about the resource, about the presentation, whatever you would like to ask. And then just briefly, before we start our questions, I'm going to my screen one more time. Hopefully you can all see this. Like I mentioned, we are going to be sending out an email. Normally we put this in the chat but this email address right here, NMNHschoolprograms@si.edu, if you registered for this webinar, we have your email and we're going to be emailing you a full list of all of the things we talked about. And then some additional things like links to the Jamestown website and other things that we think are helpful.

Nicole Webster:
But if you just clicked on the Zoom link and you didn't register beforehand and you want that follow-up email with this information, make sure you send us an email at NMNHschoolprograms@si.edu. And then also if you need a certificate as proof that you were here to get professional development credit, you also need to email this email address. We don't automatically send them out for everyone, but if you email this, NMNHschoolprograms@si.edu, we will respond and send you a certificate probably in the next week or two. We are getting them designed and updated from our onsite one. So this is an important link to be had.

Nicole Webster:
And then if by chance you have to leave now, I just want to let you know that next week we are going to be going through a different type of anthropology, paleoanthropology, looking at fossils with paleoanthropologist Briana Pobiner, and that's going to be next week. But we hope you can stay for the next few minutes for some Q&A from Kari. All right. One question. What is the age distribution of the skeletal remains found in the burial site? I'm assuming this is thinking about the sites we've been looking at in Jamestown.

Kari Bruwelheide:
Well for Jamestown, it depends on what time period. The really early Fort burials, we can actually discern different areas in relation to the Fort that relate to different time periods of occupation. So within the Fort itself are the very earliest burials, and those were all from teenagers to men probably in their late 40s. Most individuals who came to Jamestown during the 17th century were very young. For example, there's a section on the island called the Starving Time Cemetery, and it relates to all the 80% of the settlers who died during that winter. Those are usually very young individuals from 15 years to about 30 years old. Not many infants at all because it really took several decades before you start seeing the population sustain itself through births. That's not to say that there aren't infants being born and dying at Jamestown, but there are few infants and children that we have documented related to the Jamestown series.

Kari Bruwelheide:
Now, it's very different if you go to St. Mary's City, for example. And I think the website addresses this, how the skeleton can inform you about the different experiences at different sites. So St. Mary's City was founded primarily by families who came and established the settlement versus Jamestown who were really single individuals, mostly men, who came during those first years. And so you can use those differences. At Jamestown, we have more family units, and of course infant mortality was very high for these early settlers. That's expressed in the burials, especially at St. Mary's.

Nicole Webster:
And then a question that I think a lot of people have. You made a good case for like how this is important historically to excavate these skeletons from Jamestown, but can you talk a little bit about why it's time sensitive to be excavating all these skeletons at Jamestown right now?

Kari Bruwelheide:
Well, not just at Jamestown, but other sites, especially in the Chesapeake region. With the changing climate, with a rising water table, that's the issue on Jamestown Island. And so what they're doing is they're being very proactive in doing excavations to collect any information that they can before the water table destroys it. At Jamestown, you don't have just rising waters from the James river, but you have it coming up from below ground. So the island is virtually sinking as the water table increases. So they are being very proactive, as I said, to do excavations, but also to do site surveys around the island to see if there are any important areas that will be submerged in the next 10, 20, 30 years, and they go about 50 years out.

Kari Bruwelheide:
So they want to be taking proactive measures to do the archeology, but also to secure whatever they can at the site. But any site in this region, the longer you have it in the ground, the more deterioration that takes place. And so, as I said, we don't go out and actively look for these graves, but circumstances, either accidental exposure through erosion of the coastline, that's a big one, to construction. That's the other major thing that exposes graves and burials. And we go out there and we try and collect the information so that we know and can preserve the story.

Nicole Webster:
Yeah. And then also, I just would like to give a plug. I think we'll have time for about one more question. But a plug for, if you are a teacher that is local to the DMV area, we do have hands-on forensic cases at the museum when we are open and able to have classes at the museum. Again, we do have two forensic anthropology classes for 6th-12th grade where your students actually get to come through and handle actual human bones and can piece together who they think this person was.

Nicole Webster:
And we are going to be working to hopefully have a digital option for that, not just for schools that can't make the trip to Washington DC, but also for this time where we may not be able to have field trips or have certain amounts of people in a room just to kind of make it a little bit more accessible. I know that'll probably be one of the questions that we get in the inbox, so just to let you know beforehand. We do have structured school programs that are onsite around them. And we are definitely thinking about how to approach those in a digital realm as well.

Nicole Webster:
I'm going to share my screen one more time. So again if you have any follow-up questions after today, please contact us. If you want to make sure that you receive that email with all the resources, if you have any questions about what you saw or for Kari, you can also send it to this address and we will make sure to pass that along. And again, please make sure to fill out our survey when you exit. There'll be a link on your screen. We definitely want to make sure, especially going forward and into the summer and the fall, develop things that are new that are most needed by schools. We know that everyone is moving into new territory and everyone's views are changing. So we want to make sure that we're being responsive and filling those needs that everyone has.

Nicole Webster:
But thank you so much for joining us today. I want to thank Kari so much for spending this time with us. It was amazing to hear your insight as we went through that Written in Bone web page.

Kari Bruwelheide:
Well, thank you for having me and, yes, to those teachers, it's important. Go visit the sites themselves because we have such a great opportunity in this region to go to the actual place. That's a very special resource if you're able to do it.

Nicole Webster:
Great. Awesome. All right. Well, that is all for us today, everybody. Have a great rest of your week and make sure to contact us if you have any questions or issues. Bye.

Archived Webinar

The Zoom webinar with Forensic Anthropologist Kari Bruwelheide and Museum Educator Nicole Webster aired May 19, 2020, as part of the Teacher Tuesday series. Watch a recording in the player above.

Description

Join Forensic Anthropologist Kari Bruwelheide and Museum Educator Nicole Webster as they guide you through the Written in Bone website, exploring a multitude of digital resources related to science, history, and culture.

Related Resources

Resource Type
Videos and Webcasts
Grade Level
3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Topics
Social Studies