Forensic Anthropology: Bone Whispering featuring Kari Bruwelheide

Kari Bruwelheide

Anthropologist Kari Bruwelheide examining a burial at the historic Harleigh Knoll site in Maryland. Harleigh Knoll Image 189 by Chip Clark, Smithsonian. 


The forensic anthropology "Bone Whisperer" webcast aired February 27, 2014; you can watch a recorded version using the link below.

Watch Webcast Video

Read Kari's answers to student questions


Kari Bruwelheide is a Forensic Anthropologist and Physical Anthropologist at the National Museum of Natural History. Join her in understanding what skeletons can tell you about how people lived and died. Probe into the mysteries contained in human bones. See the sophisticated technologies being used to extract information from bones, and think about what technologies might enhance the study of bones in the future. Consider what an old skeleton reveals about  people and places of the past. Learn how Kari is analyzing skeletal remains in conjunction with historical records and other artifacts to recreate a picture of human life in the Colonial Chesapeake.


Use the related resources below to take your students on a journey to understand how forensic anthropologists study evidence embodied in human remains. Design an assessment for your class.

Lessons Printable, inquiry-based lessons that teachers prepare and facilitate in the classroom using everyday materials

Click-through Activities Online activities that students can complete independently on classroom computers or at home

  • The Secret in the Cellar Click through to investigate a forensic mystery from colonial America from the National Museum of Natural History

Literacy Resources Reading selections to boost science literacy

Science Expert Role Models Links to inspiring science experts at the Smithsonian and beyond

At the National Museum of Natural History A window into what's available at the museum

  • Written in Bone Exhibit Explore the webpage for the Written in Bone exhibit that will close in January, 2014
  • Featuring Dr. Doug Owsley Watch a video interview with forensic anthropologist Dr. Owsley about skeletal remains featured in the Written in Bone exhibit
  • Educator's Manual Lead your students through activities and questions about the Written in Bone exhibit

Q?rius Explore Q?rius, a new way to experience the research, collections, and science at the National Museum of Natural History

  • Collections Explore skeletal collections in Q?rius, digitized for investigation from your classroom or at home
  • School Field Trip Schedule a field trip to participate in " Forensic Mysteries Activity," which invites students to solve a real-world forensic mystery case


The Forensic Anthropology Webcast Package supports students in meeting the NGSS Performance Expectations listed below by offering a set of resources that integrate science concepts with science practice skills. 

MS-LS1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

  • MS-LS1-1 Conduct an investigation to provide evidence that living things are made of cells; either one cell or many different numbers and types of cells.
  • MS-LS1-5 Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of organisms. 

MS-PS1 Matter and its Interactions

  • MS-PS1-2 Analyze and interpret data on the properties of substances before and after the substances interact to determine if a chemical reaction has occurred. 


The Forensic Anthropology Webcast Package supports students in meeting the Social Studies listed below by offering a set of resources that integrate anthropology concepts with anthropology skills. 

Time, Continuity, and Change

  • Studying the past makes it possible for us to understand the human story across time. 
  • Knowledge and understanding of the past enable us to analyze the causes and consequences of events and developments, and to place these in the context of the institutions, values and beliefs of the periods in which they took place. 
  • Knowing how to read, reconstruct and interpret the past allows us to answer questions such as: How do we learn about the past? How can we evaluate the usefulness and degree of reliability of different historical sources?

People, Places, and Environments

  • The study of people, places, and environments enables us to understand the relationship between human populations and the physical world.  
  • During their studies, learners develop an understanding of spatial perspectives, and examine changes in the relationship between peoples, places and environments.