A few years back, the Northern Virginia medical examiner's office confiscated a skeleton from the Odd Fellows lodge in Warrenton. Forensic anthropologist Lenore Barbian was called in to determine age, sex and the possibility of foul play. The possibility, it turned out, was nil. That's because the relic -- which the fraternal group was using in an initiation ritual -- wasn't what it appeared to be.
It was an "anatomical preparation," dating from the 1800s, made of both real and manufactured parts -- like a papier-mache heart. Such constructions were once used as teaching tools in medical schools.
That's just one of the stories Barbian, assistant curator of the National Museum of Health and Medicine, plans to share on Saturday, Oct. 30, during a program about forensic science. The two-part program, open to adults and children 10 and older, includes a workshop on how to match descriptions of missing persons with fingerprints and casts of teeth and bones. (It's easiest to determine sex by studying the pelvis, which is wider in women, said Barbian.) This segment of the program takes place at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon.
From 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., forensic anthropologists are to host four hands-on lab stations, where participants can handle human bones. At one station, Marilyn London, a chairwoman at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, will lead a session on assessing a body's ancestry.
For example, "features that we recognize as consistent with European ancestry are eye sockets in the shape of aviator sunglasses," said London.
To register, call 202-782-2200 by Oct. 18. The museum is located at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on 6900 Georgia Ave. NW.
-- Samantha Ganey