So, it’s nice to give out information on what brought me to anthropology, but it is also important to share the experiences that I have had.  I will waiver however that the information I share is pertinent to the college that I have attended.  If you, (yes you there reading this blog) are interested in majoring in anthropology make sure you discuss it with your general advisers at the school you are, or are going to attend. 

So the first experience I will talk about is working with skeletal remains.  Yes, it’s a broad topic as it is something I have done all four years of my major, but it’s still something that is very important to my experiences.  Because it was the first time that I got to sit down and start learning about the human skeletal system in depth that I knew I was right where I belonged. (Don’t judge me for being cliche)  I can’t even explain how it is to work with skeletal remains.  At first it is odd because they are humans that you are working with, but you have to detach yourself from that and realize that as long as you are respectful, you’re not doing anything wrong. 

Another experience that I have had while working here was working at a summer camp teaching high school students the basics of forensic anthropology.  Being able to share my knowledge on a topic that I love was an exhilarating feeling. 

I also got the chance to talk to high school and middle school students at a college fair about human evolution.  Being able to answer questions and hear them say “wow, this is really interesting, I may go to school for this” is a fantastic feeling. 

Registering for classes is always a pain, but the professors in my school’s anthropology department were super helpful and helped lay out what I had to do each semester. 

And to end on a lovely corny note, I can’t even begin to explain how many awesome friends I have gained from being an anthropology major.  I mean, it’s a bunch of people who love to geek out about the same things I do.  For example, several of us are very upset that we will never get to view our own skeletons. And anthropology jokes are hilarious.  My professor was talking about the woman’s pelvic structure in one of my classes and she made the comment: “oh shoot, I should have brought a pelvic girdle with me” and then she laughed and said “well I guess I did, but I am kinda using it”. 


No? Not funny.  Maybe you don’t get it.  She was talking about her own pelvic girdle.


Oh…you did get it? Well…this is awkward. I guess you just had to be there.

Moral of the story? Anthropology is awesome!

I have returned, with another fascinating forensic anthropologist!  (In case you can’t tell, I am slightly biased.) 

A lot of you may actually know about Kathy Reichs, as she is the reason the television show Bones exists.  That show is based on the character in her novels.  However, a lot of people don’t realize that Bones is, at its best, the most exciting and rarest things that could ever happen to a forensic anthropologists. 

Kathy Reichs is a novelist now, famous for her Temperance Brennan novels.  She also taught FBI agents how to find and then correctly recover human remains and she can separate and identify commingled body parts in her Montreal lab, which trust me is no easy feat.  Kathy Reichs was also an important anthropologist during such tragedies as the Rwanda genocide and 9/11. 

So, again, this was just a small teaser for the introduction of this amazing woman.  You should really go look up more information about her.  

As I did with Dr. Bass, here are some awesome resources for Dr. Reichs

1) (Her own website where you can see her published novels, read about who she is and what she does, and other interesting odds-and-ends). 

2) (an interview with Dr. Reichs, where she explains forensic anthropology and talks about her novels)

3) (yes, google again. search your awesome little hearts out!) 

My next post comes from my old room mate, Charles, who was a graphic design major at Appalachian State.

What do you think Anthropology is? “The study of humans, from a cultural and biological standpoint.”

And what is that you think Anthropologists do? “Make inferences about humanity from observing different cultures alive and dead, and examine their skeletal remains for any biological differences.”

Once again, doesn’t directly mention archaeology, but basically says it. But that’s good though, i think the day someone gives me an involving aspects of cultural and biological anthropology and archaeology, i guess i would have to stop doing this section. Anyway! Charles was mostly right, but it is hard to sum up exactly everything cultural anthropologists do. Through participant observation they not only learn about living cultures, but can use their knowledge of current cultures to make inferences of past cultures. While all 3 fields overlap, it can be easy to see where in some cases 2 of the fields overlap more so than all 3 together. I guess to be fair, Charles may have said that thing about skeletons because that is all i ever talked about, even if he still has a hard time remembering i know a lot about bones.

The next person to take time out of their day to grace me with their answers was my good friend Sally, who was an accounting major at Appalachian State.

What do you think Anthropology is? “The study of humanity and human origins and evolution. The origins of human culture and biology and evolution therefrom.”

And what is that you think Anthropologists actually do? “They study human language, culture, genetics, variations in different populations, and the like in order to determine why humanity is the way it is today”.

Slow clap, anyone?

Honestly couldn’t have hope for a better answer. Sally hit the nail on the head and included aspects from not only cultural anthropology, but biological anthropology and archaeology as well. While she didn’t specifically mention anything directly from archaeology, archaeology plays a big role in the study of the origins of human culture, and of course the study of cultures than no longer exist is almost exclusively thanks to archaeology. Maybe Sally had some bias as she actually found my major plenty fascinating and enjoyed hearing me talk about it. But i assume most accounting majors probably find most other majors to be more fascinating, right?

So it has been a while, and yes.  I am going to give an excuse.  It’s near the end of the semester and I have a lot of work to do!
But anyhoodles, I introduced myself in my last post (How I Came to Anthropology: Sarah Cook) and how I came to anthropology, and while that was fun and all that jazz, let’s face it, it wasn’t very interesting.  So in this little addition I want to talk about my favorite forensic anthropologist, the man that actually unknowingly convinced me to come to this major: Dr. William Bass.
Now I am not going to pretend to be an amazing know it all on Dr. Bass, because I have read only a few books on his life…multiple times.  But, I do know a little bit about him to at least introduce you to him and lead you in the direction of looking him up as well as other anthropologists.
Dr. Bill Bass is most known for creating the world’s first Anthropological Research Facility, more commonly known as The Body Farm.  He was in college getting a psychology major, when he happened to take an anthropology course.  He says after that one course he was hooked and immediately changed his major.  He has a Ph.D. in anthropology and, in my opinion is one of the most amazing men, definitely in this discipline, possibly in the world.
But, to be honest, I am slightly biased.
Dr. Bass has worked on lots of interesting cases, including looking at the few remaining bones of Charles Lindbergh Jr., a very sad story.  He also worked on a case where a man was shot, attempted to be fed to dogs, blown into two pieces and then set on fire.  And this amazing forensic anthropologist was able to piece back all the clues and find out what happened to the victim.
To say Dr. Bass is a fascinating man is shafting him in my opinion, I can’t think of enough amazing words to even discuss how awesome I think he is.  If you want to read more about him the books I suggest to you are the following:

Death’s Acre by Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson
Beyond the Body Farm by Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson

Both are really great, interesting reads that highlight the interesting cases that Dr. Bass has worked on.  And they are written in such a way that anyone can read and understand them.


Fun resources on Bill Bass and the Body Farm:
1) (Dr. Bass and Mr. Jefferson also write novels about a forensic anthropologist, you can check those out here!)

2)  (an awesome video on the body farm, please be warned before clicking this link, it is a bit graphic.  If you’re not ok with viewing the dead, please do not click!)

3) (the first body farm that Dr. Bass founded was near the University of Tennessee Knoxville, find out information about the school and the program here!)

4) (And if you are curious about more information about Dr. Bass, some can be found here)

5)  (Click here to go to google and type in any keywords, like Dr. Bill Bass, or The Body Farm, or forensic anthropologists and find a slew of awesome information regarding your search!)

The first one of my friends to answer my question is my good friend Matt, Who studied Hospital Management at Chapel Hill.

What do you think Anthropology is? “The study of different cultures, obviously”.

And what is it that you think Anthropologists actually do? “I’d say they do their best to assimilate into a different cultures (or at least be a neutral outsider) and study it”.

Good answers, but He isn’t quite right. But he isn’t exactly wrong either. This is why i called this sections (mis)conceptions of anthropology. There not exactly misconceptions, that would mean they were wrong. So they are more like…conceptions i suppose. I’ve known Matt since High School, and He and I along with another friend lived together during the summer. I guess Matt didn’t really gleam too much from me about my major. But that is understandable, we didn’t really talk about our majors too much. When i asked him further, Matt said he never really considered Archaeology to be under the same roof as Anthropology, and said he had forgotten there was a division called Biological Anthropology.

Let me preface by saying I did not always want to be anthropologist.  If you had asked me my freshman year of high school what anthropology was I would have made something up.  No, I knew that I wanted to be a veterinarian.   I had had pets my entire life and I loved cats and I just knew I was destined to be the greatest veterinarian that ever lived.

Then I worked at a vet clinic.

Needless to say it did not end well; while there are a lot of great things about being a veterinarian, there are just as many bad things.  I didn’t change my mind then, because I didn’t know what else I wanted to do in college.  Until my senior year of high school just before I started applying to schools.

I read a book entitled Death’s Acre by Dr. Bill Bass and it literally changed my life.  I know a lot of people say that, making this kinda cliché, but I am just being honest.  I read the book, which was about forensic anthropology and fell in love with the discipline.

That’s better than watching Bones and deciding to be a forensic anthropologist for the sole reason of wanting a hunky FBI agent partner, right?

However, that’s not where it ended.  I felt like I still owed something to veterinary medicine, as though I had to still to pursue that as a career.  I didn’t actually change my mind until I got my mom’s permission, which is probably something I shouldn’t admit to.   Regardless!  I went to my mom and asked her if it was ok that I didn’t want to a veterinarian anymore and she told me to do what I wanted, to do what would make me happy.

So I came to college and immediately began taking Anthropology courses.  I definitely made the right decision.  I can remember my general adviser telling me not to feel bad about switching my major my freshman year because more than 60% of freshman did.  Well…no offense to my general adviser  but it’s four years later and I am about to graduate with a B.S. in Biological Anthropology.

Sometimes you just know what your calling is.