Using His Cranium
Wednesday, July 5, 2006
In a dim hallway in the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History, anthropologist David Hunt opens a dingy green cabinet and pulls out a drawer full of human bones.
"This," he says, "is Grover Krantz."
The bones are arranged carefully, lovingly. In the front right corner is Krantz's skull, propped on his lower jaw. Next to that are the long bones of his legs and arms. Plastic bags hold the smaller bones of his ribs, hands and feet. They're gray and they smell a little musty.
Behind the skull is an old film canister. Hunt picks it up.
"Grover kept a lot of stuff," he says. "These are his baby teeth."
Dennis Stanford, the Smithsonian's curator of archaeology, walks by. He peeks into the drawer and notices a large heel bone.
"Look at that!" he says. "Grover was pretty big, wasn't he? I forgot how big he was."
Stanford sees JoAllyn Archambault, the director of the museum's American Indian program, coming down the hall. "This is Grover," Stanford says.
"Oh, hi, Grover!" Archambault says. She smiles broadly. "I've known Grover since I was 18 years old."
The folks at the Museum of Natural History are used to skeletons. They work with thousands of them -- dinosaur skeletons, mammal skeletons, human skeletons. But only one skeleton in the collection came from a human being who was a friend of many Smithsonian scientists. They studied with Grover Krantz, drank with him, laughed with him.
Krantz was a legend in anthropology circles -- and semi-famous in the wider world, too, as the eccentric professor who drove around the Pacific Northwest with a spotlight and a rifle, searching for Sasquatch.
Krantz didn't work at the museum, but his late brother, Victor, was a photographer there and Grover would periodically stop by to visit. Inevitably, fun would break out.