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May 18, 2014

Renowned anthropologist Clyde Snow dies at 86

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NORMAN —

Dr. Snow was not always successful in his bone hunting. He once traveled to a remote mining village in Bolivia in a futile search for the remains of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the notorious turn-of-the-century outlaws celebrated in the 1969 movie starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

“Bones can be puzzles,” he told The New York Times in 1991, “but they never lie, and they don’t smell bad.”

His career was a thread running through Christopher Joyce and Eric Stover’s book “Witnesses From the Grave: The Stories Bones Tell” (1991), a study of forensic anthropology.

For decades Dr. Snow taught his skills to thousands of students, especially in nations where war crimes and human rights abuses were fast receding into the mists of history.

“Witnesses may forget throughout the years, but the dead, those skeletons, they don’t forget,” he told The Times in 2002. “Their testimony is silent, but it is also very eloquent.”

Dr. Snow was born in Fort Worth on Jan. 7, 1928, the only child of Wister Clyde and Sarah Isobel Collins Snow. He grew up in Ralls, Texas, a panhandle town. His father was a physician, and his mother, though not a trained nurse, assisted in their home clinic and maternity ward. The boy accompanied his father on house calls and trips to accident scenes and morgues.

When he was 12, he saw his first pile of bones on a hunting trip with his father, who recognized the mingled skeletons of a man and a deer. The older Snow hypothesized that the man shot the deer and died of a heart attack dragging it away. A set of keys in the remains was the only clue. A deputy sheriff recalled the disappearance of a local hunter and the keys opened doors at the man’s home, establishing his identity.

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