Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Written in Bone
Explore forensic anthropology through a series of case studies, including colonial burials in Virginia and Maryland.
Written in Bone was a popular exhibit in the Museum for almost five years (February 7, 2009 to January 6, 2014); this website was developed originally to enhance the information available in the exhibit and continues as a freestanding entity now that the exhibit is closed. This site examines history through 17th-century bone biographies, including those of colonists teetering on the edge of survival at Jamestown, Virginia, Maryland colonists living in the wealthy and well-established settlement of St. Mary’s City, farmers located in Leavy Neck in Anne Arundel County, and African slaves and European immigrants living in other locations in the Chesapeake Bay area. Scientists affiliated with these projects worked with Smithsonian anthropologists in the development of the original exhibit and this website.
Video for Educators: A Tour of the Written in Bone Website
Skeleton Keys - Ways to examine bones, what bones can reveal
Unearthing the Chesapeake - Colonial risks revealed in bone
Forensic Case Files - Solving the mysteries of how people died
Webcomic - "The Secret in the Cellar" - How the boy of Leavy Neck died
Forensic Anthropology - Science, history, analysis and even art
Information & Resources
Forensic Anthropology has literally uncovered previously unknown information about the first European settlers and Africans in Jamestown, Viriginia, Maryland's St. Mary's City, and other early colonial sites around the Chesapeake Bay. Gravesites and land nearby can tell us how they lived and died.
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