The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)


The contribution of forensic anthropology to national identity in Chile: a case study from the Patio 29 mass grave

ELIZABETH M. DEVISSER1, KRISTA E. LATHAM1 and MARISOL INTRIAGO LIEVA2.

1Archeology and Forensics Laboratory, University of Indianapolis, 2Humanos Derechos, Servicio Medico Legal

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The military coup of September 11, 1973 saw the arrest, detainment and slaughter of thousands of supporters of the socialist political party led by Presidente Salvador Allende. Bodies of tortured and executed individuals were often left floating in the Mopoche River and illegally buried in unmarked graves in Santiago’s Cemeterio General at a site called Patio 29. The graves were exhumed during the 1990’s but the patio still serves as a memorial to the “disappeared” of the Pinochet regime. The impact of the conflict in Chile will be outlined while presenting a case study from the Patio 29 grave site. The process by which human remains from Patio 29 have transformed the legal and social systems of Chile will be explored during the discussion of an individual whose remains were recovered and examined during the original 1990’s exhumation and again in 2010. Additionally, this presentation will highlight the impact of the Patio 29 exhumation on the subsequent formation of a full-time forensic anthropology team specifically designed to handle human rights caseloads. It will also discuss how the forensic and anthropological sciences used in human identification are agents of change in response to the human rights movement in the Chilean post-war era. The resultant impact has spurred a comprehensive examination of the military regime and atrocities committed in the 1970’s in an attempt to illuminate and restore public faith and pride in national identity.

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