Dealing With The Dead: How TV Shows Like 'Bones' Expose Viewers To Forensic Anthropology


Shows like Bones do a good job of exposing viewers to the world of forensic anthropology. However, when it comes to dealing with decomposing bodies in real life, things are actually are lot less glossy than they appear on our TV screens. 

The analysis of bones can give us a lot of information when it comes to the life that a human led before their death – from their diet, to their age or their race. These bits of information, however, are usually only provided through little pockets of possibilities, based on gruelling assessments and the conclusions drawn from them.

For example, it would be very difficult to guess someone’s exact age of death based on their bones alone. You could suggest that someone was aged between 28 and 55, but such a wide bracket might not help much in narrowing things down for a police investigation.

In the TV show, Bones, one of the main characters – Doctor Temperance – works exclusively with the police, helping to identify bodies and determine the cause of death. Whilst many forensic anthropologists also get to work with the police in real life , these instances don’t always come around often.

Most forensic anthropologists can be found in the university as well as in the police force, and some even work as crime writers too. The opportunities are endless.

Whilst it would be nice to imagine that a forensic anthropologist gets into the nitty gritty of discovering just who committed the crime, unfortunately, reality just doesn’t allow for that kind of intermingling. Everyone has their set roles, with a procedure that must be followed.

Forensic anthropologists usually work their magic in the laboratory, not in the field where a killer could pop out at any moment. Such an occurrence could only pop up on the silver screen (Sorry, folks).

Having said that, one notable professional in the field of forensic anthropology, Dr. Carolyn Rando of the UCL institute of Archaeology, has pointed out that, amongst all of the TV shows out there, Bones is one that actually does a good job in depicting the process of death and bone recovery quite realistically (for example, zombies in The Walking Dead would actually decompose a lot faster than what we see in the series).

It’s actually because of shows like Bones that a lot of people are venturing into a career in forensic anthropology. In fact, the books on which Bones is based on – written by infamous crime writer, forensic anthropologist and academic Kathy Reichs – are what inspired Dr. Carolyn Rando to take such an interest in the field.


Bones began its run back in 2005, and after twelve gripping seasons of unsolved cases, corpses and blossoming romance, the show has unfortunately come to an end. Fans of the series may be sad to see the end of Bones (Emily Deschanel), Boothe (David Boreanaz) and the Jeffersonian Institution, but the show’s gripping display of forensic anthropology has left behind masses of people who may just find their career in the scientific field.

If you’re going to miss Bones as much as we will, you can grab yourself a copy of the Season 12 DVD or Blu-Ray Box set, which will be released on the 19th of June.

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In the mean time, check out this hilarious clip from the gag reel of season 12:

Bones season 12 is available on DVD on 19th June, courtesy of twentieth century fox home entertainment

Let us know what you think in the comments!

Images via Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment/Giphy/Getty/Twitter

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