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Video courtesy of: Smithsonian Magazine

Written in Bone examines history through 17th-century bone biographies, including those of colonists teetering on the edge of survival at Jamestown, Virginia, and those living in the wealthy and well-established settlement of St. Mary’s City, Maryland.

The forensic investigation of human skeletons provides intriguing information on people and events of America's past. No other inanimate objects make us feel the same passionate curiosity as the remains of once-living, breathing individuals like us. And nothing else can answer our questions in quite the same ways.

At no other time in our history have we had the technological
capability or opportunity now available to help us tell this tale. 
Explore the history and science behind the investigation as we learn
for the first time the intimate stories of America's early colonists.


Forensic Anthropology Lab

Note: The Forensic Anthropology Lab closes July 31, 2013 and forensic anthropology school programs will be offered in the new Q?rius education space beginning in October 2013. Learn more about the Forensic Mysteries school program and other Natural History Investigations. Please call 202-633-1078 with additional questions about programs or logistics.

The Secret in the Cellar

is a Webcomic based on an authentic forensic case. Using graphics, photos, and online activities, the Secret in the Cellar unravels a mystery of historical, and scientific importance.


Forensic Files



Written in Bone explores forensic anthropology through a series of cases. Access all the forensic case files from a single page.

cover of the exhibit's companion volume


Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland
by Sally Walker is the companion volume to the exhibit. 

cover of exhibit catalog



Written in Bone:
Bone Biographer's Casebook
features over 150 never before released photos from the forensic files of the National Museum of Natural History.









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