Nonfiction – Written in Bone

Skeletons are inherently fascinating, holding as they do both a shivery reminder of mortality and an intriguing mystery. The bones that were discovered at Jamestown have an extra component of excitement, since they hold within themselves information about the first English settlement in the New World.

Written In Bone explores the world of archaeology through a detailed exploration of the skeletons found in Jamestown and Colonial Maryland. Along the way author Sally Walker explains the processes by which scientists excavate sites, how forensic scientists use their knowledge of bone structure to determine age, gender, and other information about the person whose skeleton has been left behind, and other interesting information about the archaeological excavation and research process.

The author wisely begins the book with a mystery teenager, allowing the reader to instantly identify with an unnamed skeleton. Using this as a doorway, the book then goes on to examine several other historical bodies, from a carefully buried captain to a body that was found stuffed into a trash pit. The emphasis here is on the science and the painstaking care that is taken to extract every last bit of information possible from the excavation. There is a lot of history here as well, as the deaths of these early colonists is put into the larger context of the world in which they lived.

The format and design of the book is well done. There are clearly captioned colored pictures on almost every page, helping the reader to really immerse him or herself into the subject matter. Despite the fact that adults tend to equate pictures with little kids, this book is not really for children, as the density of information is more appropriate to middle or high school readers.

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