By 2009, the remains buried in Congressional Cemetery's Causten Vault had pancaked. (Photo by Chip Clark / Smithsonian Institution)
By 2009, the remains buried in Congressional Cemetery’s Causten Vault had pancaked. (Photo by Chip Clark / Smithsonian Institution)

This week I got to go behind the scenes at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History to visit forensic anthropologist Doug Owsley. Dr. Owsley and his colleagues had been called in by Congressional Cemetery to deal with the bones in a vault that was being restored. After more than 150 years and at least one bout of vandalism, the remains in the Causten Vault were a mess. But by the time I arrived in Owsley’s lab, though, he and his team had painstakingly sorted the bones, identified the remains (all but one individual–a baby in a metal coffin) and packed them carefully, ready for re-internment. Read more about Owsley, the Caustens and Congressional Cemetery in my story for Smithsonian.com.