Death’s Acre Camille Mumm
Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson Composition 117
G. P. Putnam’s Sons
¨Many scientists--and even the artist Michelangelo himself--had studied bodies, but their focus was human anatomy; by dissecting the dead they hoped to learn more about the flesh and bone of the living. My interest was death itself.¨
Dr. Bass has an interesting way of looking at things and brings the reader in with his curiosity. In this book he takes the reader through dozens of missing persons cases, archaeological digs, and experiments in his own facility: Death’s Acre. From his beginnings as a psychology student to a forensic anthropologist working in the Dakotas and finally the head researcher at Death’s Acre, he explains what curiosities took him from one interest to another.
The first thing that sparked his interest in studying human remains was the curiosity to find answers. He wanted to know how a person died, when they died, and most importantly who the person was. In many of the cases he talks about in this book, he gives the reader almost a step by step guide to how to find answers about a person’s age, gender, and race. He uses this information to connect missing people to a body.
After taking anatomy class last year, I can really connect to these parts because we looked at a lot of the things Dr. Bass talks about. This book putting the whole process being put into context the way Dr. Bass does makes it very interesting. I also think this book is good in this respect because unlike in a lot of TV shows and books, the process starts with an unknown body and the forensics researchers have to find the person to match the body instead of vis versa. This makes the process seem a bit more realistic. Dr. Bass also includes different errors that he comes across and one large one leads to the establishment Death’s Acre.
In 1977 Dr. Bass comes across a rather strange case of a corpse found without its skull. He goes through the process of identification just like he would any other case except he doesn’t have cranial sutures or dental clues to work with. Eventually the skull is located but so damaged that Dr. Bass can’t get many clues from it. In the end, Dr. Bass finds out that the corpse belongs to a corporal from the Civil War, which means that Dr. Bass and his team had the time since death wrong by over a century. This discovery makes him want to learn more about how the human body decomposes. This is what sparks the idea for Death’s Acre.I was surprised by this book; Dr. Bass has such a curious attitude towards forensics that it is easy to forget that this is a book that centers on such a gruesome topic. In the book he even mentions how he brings humor to the subject to make it more comfortable for his students. Because of this aspect, I think that this book could be good for a wide audience, especially anyone who is interested in anatomy or forensics. I think that there is going to be a lot more that happens in the second half and in the description there is a mention of controversy concerning Death’s Acre. I’m curious to see where Dr. Bass’s story will go.