Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland by Sally M. Walker
School Library Journal:
/* Starred Review */ Gr 6–9— Walker takes readers on an archaeological investigation of human and material remains from 17th- and 18th-century Jamestown and colonial Maryland, while addressing relevant topics in forensic anthropology, history, and archaeology. The excavations encompass burial sites of colonists from various backgrounds, including a teenage indentured servant hastily buried in a trash pit, a grouping of prominent colonists laid to rest in lead coffins, and a woman of African heritage who likely toiled as a slave. Answers concerning the identity and fate of the uncovered remains are realized only after various specialists combine their findings to re-create relevant historical circumstances. In one instance, anthropologists provide anatomical details of a recovered skull to artists, who then use the data to produce the first sculpture of an American colonist of African ancestry. The text succinctly explains complex forensic concepts, such as determining the gender and age of a skeleton, or whether a skull represents a person originating from Europe or Africa. Captioned, full-color photographs of skeletal, dental, and artifactual remains shed light on colonial life. Historical documents, illustrated maps, and anatomical drawings complement images of various specialists at work in the field. Photographs of reenactors performing period tasks, such as grinding corn, provide insight into the daily life of the recovered individuals. Though other recent volumes discuss forensic anthropology, such as James M. Deem's Bodies from the Ice (Houghton, 2008), Written in Bone casts a magnifying glass on the hardships and realities of colonial life so often romanticized in American lore.—Jeff Meyer, Slater Public Library, IA --Jeff Meyer (Reviewed February 1, 2009) (School Library Journal, vol 55, issue 2, p127)
Sally M. Walker presents an exciting and informative look at forensics, archeology and anthropology in this fantastic non-fiction book. She works hard to give detailed scientific information at a level not above or below the heads of the average teenager.
Each step of the process includes historical atmosphere, maps, photos and descriptions. Her focus on the mysterious aspects of parts of the excavation (a possible murder, bodies buried together, etc.) grabbed my attention and held it.
Every chapter is like a separate vignette (or, if you are me, a new episode of Law and Order, Colonial Times). One is about a boy they found and how they tried to determine cause of death, his birth origin and more. Another chapter is titled “The Captain,” the name they gave to another body after an x-ray revealed an object associated with high ranking military of the time. Still another is “The Body in the Basement.”
Throughout the book teens will learn about the complex processes of excavating a site of historical importance. The care taken by scientists, forensic experts, archaeologists and others is highlighted and combined with a fun sense of mystery and intrigue (and some amazing photos!). I would recommend this to all teens.
This is one of the books for which I have created a video book trailer. I created these for my public library (where I am an intern in the YA department). I am including the trailer below.