The Body Blog: Explorations in Science and Culture


Natural selection has been honing the human form for millions of years. During that time, our brains have enlarged, our mouths have gotten smaller, our guts have been streamlined, and we’ve inhabited every ecological niche on the globe. But how we live impacts our bodies in vast and often astounding ways. It all comes down to culture.

This book explores the numerous ways our bodies are affected by culture. Why do we mutilate our teeth, tattoo our skin, bind our feet, or deform our heads? How do some of our most intriguing cultural inventions – cooking our food, transplanting organs, transfusing blood, or treating infectious disease – impact our survival?

What about some of the darker aspects of culture? Why do we bury our dead? When did cremation first take root? How did embalming evolve? What compels the acts of cannibalism, necrophilia, or grave robbing? These questions provide insight into our species, for how we treat the dead speaks volumes about how we view the living.

The Body Blog celebrates the fascinating and complex processes that keep us alive and the impact of culture on our remarkable bodies.

Searching Sand and Surf: The Origins of Archaeology in Florida

Archaeology as a discipline is well established in Florida, but that wasn’t always the case. Travel back to when archaeological sites were curiosities on the landscape and speculation as to their origins thrived. Searching Sand and Surf explores the roots of modern archaeology in the state, as seen through articles published in the Florida Historical Quarterly. Witness the evolution of contemporary archaeology in Florida and trace the development of the discipline through some of its most influential voices.

The Mass of Men

Now an IndieReader Approved Book! Check out the review.

How are firefighters made? What does it take to enter a burning building and risk your life to save another? The cadets of Class #64 are about to find out. Under the grueling supervision of their instructors, the students struggle to keep up with the relentless pace of their training. They are pushed to their limits and only the most determined will succeed. As each cadet makes the transition from novice to professional, the bonds they develop take on dimensions of their own.

Samantha grew up within the male-dominated rank structure of her father’s naval career. Headstrong and determined, she is driven to excel among her fellow cadets, but as the only female in the group, she has the added burden of fitting in. Her position among the cadets is further complicated by the deep platonic bond she shares with one of her fellow cadets and the connection that develops between her and the commander of the academy.

Ty grew up under the heavy hand of an abusive father. He escaped his family’s sprawling farm to attend the academy and for the first time is free from his father’s repressive shadow. He comes into his own at the academy, in large part because of the friendship he develops with Sam. Their closeness is that of siblings, yet Ty wrestles with deeper feelings and struggles to keep them in check. The other source of his growth is the relationship he develops with Commander Daniels, a relationship that provides the long-sought acceptance Ty craved from his own father.

Matt Daniels has been head of the academy for almost ten years. He exists within a self-imposed isolation following a personal tragedy that forced him to flee San Diego Fire Department. He immerses himself in the academy and serves as a rigid disciplinarian over the cadets and staff. But everything changes as he finds himself drawn to Samantha. As he struggles against his feelings for Sam, he also succumbs to Ty’s warmth and openness, and for the first time in his career, Daniels allows himself the emotional freedom to bond with his students.

Together, Sam, Ty, and Daniels must navigate the complexities of their relationships while being bound by the rank structure that defines them.

The Mass of Men takes the reader inside the grueling training of firefighters, revealing the drama, humor, and intensity of an academy. The punishing physical demands are only part of the challenge as the cadets overcome fears, wrestle with conflict, and deal with the burden of knowing they will one day be responsible for the lives of others.

A Bioarchaeological Assessment of Health from Florida’s Archaic 

(PhD Dissertation, Florida State University, 2006)

Windover (8BR46) represents one of the most ancient and well-preserved skeletal populations in North America. Excavated in the 1980s from a mortuary pond near Florida’s eastern coast, the remains represent over 168 individuals, from neonates to elderly, enabling an evaluation of health at all stages of life. Through the application of the Western Hemisphere Health Index (Steckel and Rose, 2002) and the bioarchaeological analysis of traumatic injury, degenerative joint disease, infection, dental disease, and biometrics, the overall health of the Windover population has been assessed and compared to populations utilizing various subsistence practices, in a variety of geographic regions spanning 7,000 years of human history.

Let Burn: The Making and Breaking of a Firefighter/Paramedic


Desiring a meaningful, high-paced career in public service, Rachel Wentz left her university studies to become a firefighter/paramedic. Only the eighth woman hired by the Orlando Fire Department, a highly competitive department steeped in tradition, Wentz excelled, completing an AS in Fire Science, a master’s in public administration, and numerous specialized training courses to prepare her for an administrative position within the department. Wentz spent eleven years with OFD, enjoying a career that was every bit as exciting and challenging as she had sought. A moving, candid, and eloquent memoir, Let Burn recounts her tenure as a firefighter/paramedic, when she saw aspects of life and death few people witness and encountered experiences that shaped her as a professional and as a person. From the rigorous demands of training to the extraordinary calls to which Wentz responded, Let Burn not only details the gratifying aspects of the field but also demonstrates the precarious nature of the job: a heated altercation at the scene of an industrial fire leads to Wentz losing almost everything she’s worked for and the dramatic end of a storied career. In vivid detail, Let Burn provides a firsthand glimpse into the hidden world of firefighting and emergency medicine.

Review of Let Burn by Dr. Roger C. Smith

Life and Death at Windover: Excavations of a 7,000-year-old Pond Cemetery

In 1982, a backhoe operator demucking a small pond at the new Windover Farms housing development in Titusville, Florida, uncovered a human skull. The bones of several other individuals soon emerged from the pond’s base and researchers would be astounded to learn that the burials were constructed over 7,000 years ago. The pond held the remains of over 168 well-preserved skeletons, along with hand woven textiles, beautifully constructed artifacts, and ancient soft tissue. The discovery of Windover Pond was just the beginning of an archaeological adventure that continues to this day.

Chasing Bones: An Archaeologist’s Pursuit of Skeletons

In January, 2001, Rachel Wentz walked away from a career as a firefighter/paramedic to pursue a PhD in anthropology, specializing in the analysis of human remains. Her studies at Florida State University focused on the ancient skeletons from the Windover site, but her research has taken her into the darker world of forensics and beyond. Travel with Dr. Wentz to the famed museums of London, Paris, and Italy, the fragrant landscapes of Ukraine, the beautiful shores of the Caribbean, and back to the sandy soils of Florida. This engaging and fast-paced memoir provides the reader a first-hand glimpse into the fascinating world of bioarchaeology, where skeletons hold the clues to past lives and the ancient civilizations from which they came.