Built on Bones

Built on Bones
by Brenna Hassett
Published by Bloomsbury Sigma www.bloomsbury.com

“The dead never lie” says archaeologist Brenna Hassett. In this case, the tale they tell is of our 14,000 year journey from cave to condo. It’s a story of changing diets and changing lifestyles that reshaped our very bones. It’s new diseases in old places and old diseases in new places. It’s deprivation, famine, inequality and violence in all its forms from war to endemic spousal abuse. It’s also a story peppered with archaeological hijinks and amusing observation.

For the most part Hassett writes engagingly about a subject she clearly loves but her enthusiasm sometimes gets the better of her and she strays off into superfluous detail about symptoms, strains and alternate theories of transmission for various medieval diseases. These off-topic wanderings resulted in a narrative that exceeded my interest at several points (your mileage may differ). The dead may not lie but they sometimes bang on a bit.