Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Reading Update for The Bone Woman: Part Two

The Bone Woman

by Clea Koff

~ Goodreads ~

Part Two:  Kigali

I'm a bit behind on my updates (as well as reading this book as part of the buddy read with Themis and Elentarri), but I tend to take nonfiction slowly anyway, so I'm not sweating it.  But here's the next, though I wasn't really sure I had much to contribute to discussion.

Part Two: Kigali, is a bit shorter than the first, Kibuye, and feels almost like an extension of the Kibuye mission, since it is still within the scope of the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

This part also has a few things that I would have liked to have seen in the previous part in Kibuye.  There is a short lesson about the terms "Hutu" and "Tutsi" and how they came to be about, as Koff explains about the way in which identity cards were checked for an individual's "ethnicity" during the 1994 killings.  I found this section pretty interesting.

Meanwhile, the scientist in me couldn't help but be drawn to the following passage:

Children present more age indicators than adults because, in addition to all the postcranial indicators, teeth form and erupt in the mouth at generally predictable ages (except for the third molars, or "wisdom teeth").  The formation of crowns and roots can generate an age range, which can be further informed by the state of fusion on the long bones, pelvis, hands, feet, and even fingers and toes.  So where forensic anthropologists often give five- or ten-year age ranges on adults who appear to be over the age of thirty-five years, for children a narrower age range can usually be assigned.  You might find one indicator that a child is no younger than five, for example, and then another three indicators that put him under eight.  With this information, you can safely record an age range of between five and eight years at death.  Similarly, for a young adult male, you might find that the sternal epiphysis of the clavicle is unfused, putting him roughly under twenty-five years, but under nineteen.  Now you can begin to form an age estimate, one that does not have to be as broad--perhaps sixteen to twenty years.  Then you look at the other bones to refine or adjust the age range further.  The goal is to improve the chances of finding a match with a missing person, and the forensic anthropologist must take into account the variation he or she has seen in cases where the actual age of the decedent became known after a positive identification.

This is kind of what I'd been looking for in terms of Koff showing us how forensic anthropology and osteology can be used to identify a skeleton.  This is stuff I recall spending a semester trying to learn, all those years ago in college.  Something that I, admittedly, never excelled at, but always found extremely interesting.

The rest of the Kigali part also has Koff mentioning the importance of team morale and team togetherness, as she feels, for the first time, what happens when their lead anthropologists are called away, and the small group left in Kigali kind of just start breaking apart.

This is still a very nerve-wracking time for Koff, as she still remembers the gunfire and killings of the two men in the lake, just feet away from where she and her teammates had been dining one night.  The bullet holes and bloody hand prints on walls continue to remind her that the places she is currently staying had recently been desperate places of refuge for the victims.

We also get to see a glimpse of an orphanage that Koff visits, with children, orphaned from the genocide.  It's a nice touch to end off this part of the book, I think, and I'm glad she included it.

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