The science behind bones and human remains pieced together chilling stories of murder and death as told by forensic anthropologist William Bass Thursday evening.
Sponsored by the Undergraduate Anthropology Association, Bass, professor emeritus and forensic anthropologist, gave a lecture regarding the forensic studies of people eaten by their animals after their deaths.
Much of the lecture examined bones found from a crime scene. Bass also discussed the work and knowledge that goes into properly identifying the cause of death and the person of whom the remains belong to.
Throughout the lecture, Bass showed pictures depicting various signs of attack may look like and demonstrated how he helped piece together mysterious deaths.
The first case Bass discussed involved a dog and a time it brought a skull into a rural home. An investigation launched the same time that a young woman went missing after traveling home from work. After she never returned home, her mother reported her missing.
“Six weeks after (the woman) disappeared, a dog ran into a rural home with a cranial vault...this is very typical of many of the forensic cases that you get,” Bass said. “You seldom get a forensic case with all the bones there.”
Bass said the cranial vault is the most common forensics evidence found following a crime.
“If you have been in forensics you know that this is very typical of what happens, the cranial vault happens many times...there are three animals who are attracted to decaying bodies: dogs, coyotes...and bears,” Bass said.
This attraction to decaying bodies often leaves the skull because animals eat the carcass and the easiest way to access the face is to chew through it. Because the top of the skull is too large to crush for animals, it often remains in one piece for forensic anthropologists and investigators to find.
Bass discussed ways that osteology plays into forensic science and how it played a large role in the case. The skull brought in was accessed by its trauma and found to be fractured due to blunt force trauma which ultimately killed the woman.
The send case that Bass discusses involved a woman in Williamson County in Middle Tennessee. An older woman suffering from a brain tumor died in her home and was later eaten by her pet dogs. The science behind this case revolved around a crime scene's foundation in inspections of the dead. Body decomposition and teeth indentations on the skill told the story of the woman's death at the hands of her animals.
Bass also discussed the UT Body Farm and the purposes it has played into his work. The Body Farm provides research and training regarding body decomposition under various conditions. Researchers can study images of a body during certain conditions as a way of determining the frame of death for an investigation.
Jessica Newcomb, senior studying anthropology and sociology, commended the lecture and Bass's importance to her education at UT.
“I enjoyed hearing about the work that I have learned how to do because he grew this department for students like me to benefit from it and without his legacy we wouldn't have nearly the benefits that we do as students,” Newcomb said.
Freshman studying anthropology Rachel Griffin said the Body Farm and Bass's work encouraged her to attend UT to study anthropology.
“I have always wanted to see at least one of Dr.Bass’s lectures because his books and his descriptions of the Body Farm were actually a big part of the reason why I chose UT as a school,” Griffin said. “(The lecture) confirmed a lot of what I have heard about him and what I have read about him. I really like his lecture style and the way that he views the work that he does.”