Dr. Penny Minturn
Building Bridges

October 25, 2018
The Great Hall

Reflection | Video | Podcast | Photos

Graduate of Arizona State University, MA and PhD. Dr. Christy Turner, committee chair. Bioarchaeology main focus. Worked for 25 years in the US Southwest and Egypt. Currently work for Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

Research Interests:
Aging, Bioarchaeology, Forensic Anthropology, Skeletal Biology, Medieval Archaeology

SUU Press Release

Event Reflection

by Billy Clouse

On Thursday, October 25, Dr. Penny Minturn visited SUU to talk about her job as a forensic anthropologist, which has taken her everywhere from the southwest United States to Laos to Egypt. Her lecture, titled "Building Bridges," reflected on over 35 years in the field.

As a child, Minturn was given a book about an archaeologist, and at the age of 8, she decided it was what she would do with her life. By time she got to college, however, she decided to pursue other things, and a lack of interest in her classes led to her flunking out of college.

She later reconnected with her passion for archaeology. Minturn went back to school with a new energy, earning her Bachelor's in 1984, her Master's in 1994, and her Ph.D. in 2006. During her studies, she worked in the field, taught, developed a museum, and volunteered.

While showing photos of the places she's worked, including Mexico and Vietnam, Minturn explained that while on a mission, she makes an effort to reach out to the locals who help with the excavations. Her teams regularly engage in humanitarian work such as building schoolhouses.

After earning her Doctorate Degree, Minturn led the excavation of the tomb of Iuu in Abydos, Egypt. This ancient Egyptian city was where the first pyramids were built, and the interiors of them were decorated with wall paintings and hieroglyphics. Minturn noted the beauty of them, especially that the colors were so well-preserved that they appeared as if they could have been painted a few days before they found them.

In her current role as a forensic archaeologist and anthropologist for the DPAA-Central Identification Laboratory, Minturn leads missions to locate the remains of soldiers who went missing during war.

One of her most memorable moments from a mission happened during a project in the jungles of southeast Asia. Amid the heat and humidity, Minturn's team was analyzing an area larger than a football field, and she got the feeling she should check a different location. Almost immediately, she found evidence of human presence, including dog tags and a partial blood chit.

Although the days onsite can be long, Minturn said she prefers field work to lab work. Even after more than three decades, she gets excited every time she walks onto a site. She remarked that with her current job, she has the honor of serving her country and returning home the brave men and women who died fighting to protect the United States.


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