In the book, Dead men do tell tale Essays, by William R.
Maples, Ph. D. and Michael Browning, a story is told in how the dead, no matter how dead, still talk to us. The book is appropriately titled because, according to Dr. Maples, truth is discoverable, truth wants to be discovered (2). Dr.
Maples tells us of what it is like to be a Forensic Anthropologist. Dr. Maples does not hold anything back in any of his descriptions, from the smell of corpses to the explanations of maggots. Dead Men Do Tell Tales is a complete engrossing journey into the world of Forensic Anthropology and the science of bones. The book is well organized and easy to follow.
The story is not from some published medical work containing lengthy medical terminology. The book is best described as the story of Dr. Maples career and interesting encounters it entailed. The book is a total of 292 pages. The book is organized into 16 chapters, each appropriately titled for the subject and stories that it contains. One could only wish that all story tellers could be as good as Dr.
Maples. The first chapter, Every Day Is Halloween, gives a preview of the book and talks about the nightmares that he seldom has. They are usually flitting images of the everyday things I see on the job: crushed and perforated skulls, lopped-off limbs and severed heads, roasted and dissolving corpses, hanks of human hair and heaps of white bones all in a days work at my office (1). In this part of the book, we learn of Dr. Maples’ life and how it came to include the fascinating world of anthropology.
It is in this chapter that Dr. Maples proves his credibility that he knows what he is talking about. He tells of his upbringing with strict moral values, taught by his father, the death of his father, and how he ended up taking an anthropology class in college, only because the other classes were full already. As Dr. Maples puts it, It was a combination of good luck and bad character. (6)It is in this beginning chapter that we get to know William Maples, the small boy who did not grow up wanting to become a Forensic Anthropologist, initially majoring in English, but realized that it was his passion.
It is in this chapter were we first hear of the notorious teacher, Tom McKern. It was McKern who, more than any other man save only my father, shaped and directed my life (6). We find out about his odd jobs that he undertook while attending the University of Texas, from working at a morgue to being an ambulance driver. In the end, he ends up spending time in Africa to study baboons. I feel the admiration that he has for his newfound love of Anthropology when he makes reference to Newton. I have seen further, Newton said, it is because I have stood upon the shoulders of giants.
In my case, it has been the shoulders of baboons, but I am nonetheless grateful (19). We should all be so fortunate to find are true passion as Dr. Maples did. I appreciated the humor in the next chapter, Talkative Skulls, when Dr. Maples immediately disassociates himself from the television show character, Quincy. I immediately compared Quincy to Bill Nye the science guy of my generation.
In this chapter, he starts putting together how anthropology and crime investigation starts going hand in hand. In many of the cases that he describes, the skulls that he studies talk to him. I laughed when I thought about how a Forensic Anthropologist was actually using the techniques that I had studied and learned in class. Teachers are always trying to prove to there students that what they are learning is actual used in the real world and not just there to torture us. Having paid attention in class, cranial sutures, sloping foreheads, orbits, and dental observation made complete sense and I found myself with the feeling that I was in the laboratory and making suggestions to Dr.
Maples on how to sex the skeleton. He even gives an example of how one of the skulls even talked .