Showing posts with label James M Deem. Show all posts
Showing posts with label James M Deem. Show all posts

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Faces From the Past by James M Deem

Rating: WORTHY!

There are few places where science and art intersect more masterfully than in forensic face reconstruction. Most people who have heard of this might associate it with a modern murder investigation, but it is often used to see how someone looked who lived long ago. This book describes some North American cases, which seem disproportionately to favor the Albany, New York area, for some reason, but which cover other skeletal remains, too.

The reconstructions cover a long time period, from the ten thousand year old man from Spirit Cave, to much more recent skeletal remains, such as 'Buffalo' soldiers of the "Indian wars" (which were really white folk wars, let's face it!). The first chapter is about Spirit Cave, and other chapters cover a sailor who died apparently of dehydration during the disastrous La Salle exploration of America's gulf coast during the late seventeenth century, the forgotten slave burials at Schuyler Flatts, a Mexican soldier from San Jacinto, and six Chinese miners from Wyoming, among others. Each chapter gives background history of events and habits and customs, and provides copious photographs and illustrations, while discussing the discovery of the remains, the decision to create a likeness, and the process, and the artist who did the job.

Reconstructions literally put a face on our past, and examining remains can inform us about the lifestyle of the person whose body has been found - including how brutal it was for slaves. This book is one of a number which cover this kind of work, and it is particularly good in how it tells these stories. It's also eminently suitable for younger readers, some of whom may well end-up making a career in this line of work. I commend it as a worthy read.