By Ann Friou
University News Service
March 23, 2012
Forensic anthropologists at Texas State University-San Marcos are helping to solve four unusual cold cases, for the television series “The Decrypters” that will air on the National Geographic Channel beginning March 29 and running through May 10.
“The series will tie the investigative methods used by forensic anthropologists to sweeping events in American history,” said Michelle Hamilton, who with Kate Spradley is studying the skeletons of individuals who died in America some 150-250 years ago.
“By scientifically examining these human skeletons,” Hamilton said, “we shed light on founding events that defined this country.”
Kate Spradley (left) and Michelle Hamilton in for the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State
“Drs. Hamilton and Spradley are two of the nation’s foremost forensic anthropologists, and what they tell viewers about the skeletons is very exciting,” said the program’s producer, Michael Douglas.
“National Geographic is interested in focusing on scientific validity,” Spradley added. “So, while the skeletons appear to have compelling stories behind them, viewers will be able to follow us as we use science to see whether those stories work out.”
Each of the skeletons that Hamilton and Spradley are investigating will be featured in an hour-long episode of “The Decrypters.” They include:
Hamilton and Spradley’s research on the bones has been supplemented with DNA, stable isotopes and radiological testing performed by other experts. Computer-generated facial reconstructions have been done on the skeletons for which there are sufficient remains.
The National Geographic Channel’s film crew taped Hamilton and Spradley in 2011, in the Grady Early Forensic Anthropology Lab at Texas State, as they studied the bones.
Hamilton and Spradley teach in the Anthropology Department and work for the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State (FACTS). Texas State oversees the largest forensic anthropology research and training facility in the United States. Research done at the facilities by faculty and graduate students provides new information on the processes of human decomposition, information that assists law enforcement in identifying human bodies and establishing the time and nature of death.
Proceeds from the filming of the National Geographic series will support multiple incoming graduate student scholarships in Forensic Anthropology.