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Ariana Curtis talks urban anthropology at the Smithsonian

Smithsonian Institution
Meet Ariana Curtis, Curator of Latino Studies at the Anacostia Community Museum.

Group Portrait of Department of Anthropology Staff, 1959

Smithsonian Institution Archives
Requested by Dr. Frank Setzler, Department of Anthropology.

Corner of Studio of Artist and Model-maker in Anthropology

Smithsonian Institution Archives
W.H. Bray and William H. Egberts, physical anthropology staff at the United States National Museum, now known as the National Museum of Natural History, construct models in studio.

Archeologists Work with Artifacts from Division of Cultural Anthropology

Smithsonian Institution Archives
Digital contact sheet available.

Frame selections featured in "The Torch," July 1965.

Visiting archeologists from the Hemisphere Republics, Father Pedro Porras and Silvia Maranca, work with artifacts from the Division of Cultural Anthropology at the Museum of Natural History.

Determining the Capacity of Human Skulls in Physical Anthropology

Smithsonian Institution Archives
T. Dale (Thomas Dale) Stewart (1901-1997), physical anthropologist in the Department of Anthropology at the United States National Museum, now known as the National Museum of Natural History, determines the capacity of human skulls.

William R. Maples Popularized Forensic Anthropology Long Before CSI

Smithsonian Magazine

Although forensic anthropology has been around in some form or another since the 1200s, it wasn't until the scientific developments of the nineteenth and twentieth century that it really came into its own. "Although there were famous grisly murders of the nineteenth century solved through examination of bones and body fragments, it wasn't until the 1930s that the relationship between anthropology and the police was formally acknowledged," writes PBS.  In this decade–on this day in 1937, to be exact–William Ross Maples was born. His subsequent career as a forensic anthropologist helped to bring that field to prominence by helping to bring justice and peace to families as well as clear up some high-profile historical crimes.

Maples was involved in more than 1,200 forensic anthropology cases during his career, according to the Maples Center for Forensic Medicine at the University of Florida. Because he was an expert in analyzing human skeletal material, he worked on a number of cases that had historical value: For instance, he led the team that identified the remains of the Romanov family and Czar Nicholas II. He worked on the remains of Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro. But he also worked on cases that had current import–most prominently, the cold case of the murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers. Here are a few of the cases where Maples’s touch was helpful:

The Romanov Family

Maples had been interested in the fate of the Romanovs since he was a child, writes author Robert K. Massier. In 1992, he and a team of colleagues–among them Michael Baden, the forensic pathologist who would lead the Medgar Evers investigation–headed to Russia to examine some remains that had been discovered there. The team confirmed that the remains were the Romanovs–minus Romanov daughter Anastasia and heir Alexei. DNA testing later confirmed their work.   

Zachary Taylor

The former U.S. President died in July 1850. He was exhumed 140 years later in an attempt to lay to rest rumors that he was murdered because of his stance on slavery. Taylor had died suddenly, leading some–including humanities professor Clara Rising–to speculate that he had been poisoned. “Right after his death, everything he had worked against came forward and was passed by both houses of Congress,” she said when his body was exhumed, according to Michael Marriott for The New York Times. Maples worked with coroner Richard Greathouse to examine the body, concluding that Taylor was not poisoned. His cause of death was listed as gastroenteritis.

Taylor was the first president whose remains were examined, though not the first to be exhumed. JFK’s coffin was exhumed and moved from one burial site to another in the 1960s. Although there was some negative backlash to Taylor’s exhumation, Maples said it was important to conduct arsenic testing and lay the rumors to rest. “If the possibility even remotely exists that one of our presidents was murdered, it is something that would have changed history,” he said.

Medgar Evers

Maples was part of the team that examined the remains of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, who was murdered in 1963. Forensic evidence from Evers’s body was used to help finally secure a conviction against white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith for shooting Evers in his own driveway.

“He was one of the few forensic anthropologists who could understand the needs of the justice system,” forensic dentist Lowell Levine told The New York Times for Maples’s 1997 obituary. “He could lead and conduct investigations where he would point to the crucial evidence to be shown at trial.”

Maples died of brain cancer at the age of 59. He didn’t have the opportunity to conduct his dream investigation, writes David M. Herszenhorn for the Times: examining several skeletons, held in Europe, that were possible candidates for being the remains of Christopher Columbus.

Knowledge from the margins: W. Montague Cobb's pioneering research in biocultural anthropology

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Cobb was a colleague of T. Dale Stewart in the Division of Physical Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History. Stewart discusses his work with Cobb in his oral history interviews in Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9521.

See http://www.mnh.si.edu/exhibits/race/AnthroNotesSpring2011web.pdf for an image of Cobb's calipers.

Image title: American Association of Physical Anthropologists 25th Annual Meeting May 12-14, 1960. The man in the center of the line is William Montague Cobb, to his right is T. Dale Stewart. Located in the Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Scurlock Collections, Box 618.04.109.

W. Montague Cobb became the first African American to receive a doctorate in physical anthropology in the United States in 1932. He was also among the first U.S. physical anthropologists to demonstrate a commitment to biocultural integration and racial equality in his research. Nonetheless, very few European American physical anthropologists responded to or utilized Cobb's work. This continued after bioanthropology took on a more biocultural focus in the 1980s, some 50 years after Cobb's first studies of this kind. This essay addresses Cobb's research and writing from the first decades of his career to illustrate his contribution to developing biocultural perspectives in physical anthropology. The goal of this article is to move Cobb from the margins to the center of discussions about methodological and theoretical developments in bioanthropology over the past 30 years

Life Group of Powhatan Indians with Capt. John Smith, Anthropology Exhibit, NHB

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Original negative number is 27076. See RU305 Acc. #48781 for detailed information on this group.

This life group exhibit has Captain John Smith standing on the prow of a boat with several colonists behind him and a group of Powhatan (Virginian) Indians, standing on the beach in front of him. The Native Americans are offering food stuffs and furs while Smith and the colonists are offering cloth and beads. This group is part of the Anthropology Exhibit in the United States National Museum's Natural History Building, now the National Museum of Natural History. The group was originally made by the United States National Museum for the Jamestown Tercentennial exhibition in 1907. William Henry Holmes designed the group, and it was executed under his direction.

Anthropological papers

Smithsonian Libraries

Anthropological Papers

Smithsonian Libraries

Anthropological papers

Smithsonian Libraries

Anthropological papers

Smithsonian Libraries

Anthropological papers

Smithsonian Libraries

Anthropological Papers

Smithsonian Libraries

Anthropological Papers

Smithsonian Libraries

Where did your favorite Thanksgiving Day food originate? Anthropology has the answer

Smithsonian Insider

Millions of people across the United States will sit down Nov. 27 to a traditional Thanksgiving meal, including turkey, potatoes, squash, corn and cranberries. These […]

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Modern African basketry joins anthropology collections of National Museum of Natural History

Smithsonian Insider

Basket making by Botswana women has a long history and it continues to be a robust craft tradition. Over the past three decades it has become increasingly well known in the international craft market.

The post Modern African basketry joins anthropology collections of National Museum of Natural History appeared first on Smithsonian Insider.

Unveiling of Mural by Alton Tobey in Hall of Physical Anthropology

Smithsonian Institution Archives
Also known as 59654.

Digital contact sheet available.

Frame selection featured in "The Torch," March 1966.

Unveiling of mural by Alton Tobey in Hall of Physical Anthropology at the Museum of Natural History, now known as the National Museum of Natural History, with Dr. T. Dale Stewart, Senior Anthropologist, artist Alton Tobey, and wife, Roslyn Tobey. The mural features an Inca surgeon performing a procedure on the skull of a living patient.
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