Bones or Rocks, but Never Dinosaurs

Tuesdays are a long day for me. I wake up 7 something, leave the house by 8 the latest to drive down the ever-so-smooth Comm Ave. Get to the med campus parking garage by Boston Medical and run across the, at-times, perilous Albany Street just in time for class to start at 9. Work in the lab until about 1 then off to GDIT Needham. Note to self, never wear headphones walking across Albany Street and always look up. 2 reasons, one, there are some characters around there who are rather hmm umm well let me try and think of a word.. scary, to say the least (Boston Medical Center being the number one hospital in Massachusetts for gunshot victims (I mean living ones this time), usually arriving by foot, and usually followed by their shooter- so they say), two, the ambulances come flying down the street with no mercy.. both ways. It’s a beautiful campus and there’s a beautiful new building next to Yawkey (go Ironworker dad!) but keep your head up and move quick. Just saying…

This Tuesday we were presented with several buckets of hand and foot bones to sort and side. Let’s just get this point.. what the heck does and anthropologist do? 

Bones: Forensic anthropologists (FA) commonly work in medical examiner’s offices, ME’s office for short. Not all jurisdictions have medical examiners but Massachusetts does. Coroners are elected officials that do not require a degree in medicine (pathology), basically anyone can be voted on.. and on the other hand medical examiners have a degree and are hired by the state. In fact, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) in Massachusetts was the first in the nation. The most common thing an FA is asked to do is determine whether or not a bone brought in to the office is human or non human. Lots of times people will bring in some bones they find out in the woods thinking they’re human when they’re probably just dogs or something. Butchered bones from meat factories are also brought in, pretty much in pieces that have been cut up and just tossed to the side. These butchered bones, like cow or pig bones, may be found out in the woods because some scavenger carried it out away from the factory, or that just where factories workers dump their crap. 

Or Rocks: Not only do we differentiate human from nonhuman bone but also bone from other elements. Bones of the hands and feet can look like rocks and other items. There are 8 carpals (little bones of the wrist that look like rocks and are placed in two rows…these are so small that these rows only take up about one inch of your palm where your wrist starts to become your hand) and 5 metacarpals (from your carpals to your first knuckle) and 14 phalanges (bones that make up fingers)..there are 3 phalanges for all fingers besides the thumb which only has two. Then there are 7 tarsals (which make up the ankle and heal of your foot to the arch), 5 metatarsals (which make up the arch to the balls of your feet), and 14 phalanges (same story). In my opinion and in general, these all look like blobby shaped rocks.. until you get to know them personally… 

But NEVER Dinosaurs: Anthropologists study everything about humans; linguistics, culture, biological aspects, and archaeology. Archaeology is digging up human bones and artifacts. Forensic anthropology primarily puts together biological anthropology and archaeology but you can never forget about all other aspects because anthropology is holistic by nature. FA’s just involve law (hence the word forensic). Most importantly, we don’t dig up dinosaurs, that’s paleontology (actually paleontology is the study of prehistoric ecologies but I’ll spare you the details). If we found human bones at the time of dinosaurs, there would be some pissed off Darwinists, and the idea of evolution would be all back assward.. dinosaurs died like 64 million years ago and humans didn’t really evolve until pretty much a half a million years ago (I’d say there’s a bit of a spread.. hmm I don’t know like um 63.5 million years, sorry Jesus). Paleoanthropology= study of prehistoric human/fossils (all these Latin/Greek words can be combined to mean something.. -anthropo= human, paleo= ancient, -ology= the study of). Practices of recovering artifacts, remains, you name it, all share some systematic approach that exists in prehistoric digs to modern day crime scenes by using similar (if not the same) archaeological excavation techniques, but even with booming technology (ground penetrating radar (GPR), global positioning system (GPS), and so on) traditional excavation techniques are still being practiced with good old probes, shovels, and brushes. We still even use pencils. 

This Saturday we have a dig so I’ll get into surveying and excavation techniques later…

I was going to next describe how we sort and sided that heap of bones but instead I’m going to go with my stream of conscious (thanks Chris). I like to write to just write what I’m thinking down, it clears your mind. I like to just write like I’m not holding back. I like to just write even if I’m not making sense. Plus, there’s nothing wrong with repeating yourself. Most of the time you just really mean what your repeating like whatever it is just sticks out in your mind and all you want to do is get it out of that lump three feet above your ass, and in some ways it’s just like coping with something or riding out some period of recovery .. whatever it is, just get it off your mind. Your aura will thank you later. Plus, repeating your words is kind of cool and comforting, how the letters run together, how they sound together.. and same with alliterations. Mmm.. alliterations. 

Well a stream of conscious is a literary technique that entails letting out your thoughts and feelings as they occur, or as an archaeologist would say in situ. Like you’re supposed to leave these words that you think as your thinking it out on paper for that time that you thought it at that exact moment and unlike artifacts these can’t be dug up, only through your memory which is not important right now. However, message muy impportante: do not get rid of your filter. Particularly, in psychology, this stream is that conscious experience that we all go through and it’s constantly wearing down, I mean running through, your mind. If you think you suffer from a severe case of psychological stream of consciousness… new way to deal with it.. write a blog. 

And don’t erase anything.


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