Finding and identifying Franco’s victims

Descendants of people killed by Franco during and after the Spanish Civil War are coming together from all over to contribute to a DNA bank that will help identify remains found in mass graves.

Historians estimate about 500,000 people from both sides were killed in the civil war, which was sparked by Franco’s insurgency against the democratically elected left-wing Republican government.

After Franco’s victory, historians say 50,000 Republicans were executed by Nationalist forces and tens of thousands were incarcerated, the majority in the early years of his rule.

While the regime honoured its own dead, it left tens of thousands of its opponents buried in hundreds of unmarked graves across the country.

So far, Spain’s Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory has exhumed 1200 bodies from 110 graves, but they have information on 300 more potential grave locations. Who knows how many more mass graves are out there that nobody knows about.

It would help a lot if the military finally released secret records that have been sealed shut since the Official Secrets Law of 1968. At least the Defense Minister Carme Chacon, is trying to pry open the horror files.

Millions of documents which record the fate of generations of Spaniards during the 1936-39 conflict and General Franco’s subsequent dictatorship, remain hermetically sealed unless opened individually by judicial order.

Ms Chacon’s initiative forms part of the Socialist government’s plan to restore justice to Franco’s victims, in accordance with a historic memory law passed last year. What is the point, Ms Chacon asks, of digging up the bones of those thrown anonymously into mass graves after being shot at dawn, when all the documentation is locked up in army files?

Good damn point.

Gold wreath, bones found in a copper vat

Archaeologists excavating what was once the central market in ancient Aigai, the capital of Macedonia in Philip II and Alexander the Great’s day, have uncovered an odd marvel.

When the digger first came across the large copper vat, he thought it was some old landmine. Upon further inspection, archaeologists found a gold jar inside containing a gold wreath and human bones.

You don’t come across gold wreaths every day. Only aristocrats and nobles were buried with them, but they were buried in, you know, cemeteries, not in jars.

That means someone disinterred those bones and the wreath, canned them, and reburied them in the market near the spot where Philip II was assassinated.

“Archeologists must explain why such a group … was found outside the extensive royal cemetery,” the university statement said. “(They must also) work out why the bones of the unknown – but by no means insignificant – person were hidden in the city’s most public and sacred area.”

During the fourth century BC, burials outside organized cemeteries were very uncommon.

Whoever did this did it fairly soon after burial and obviously left behind the big ticket items (the gold wreath and jar), so it definitely wasn’t a looter.

I love a good archaeological mystery. :love:

Your brush with archaeological fame

One of our regular commenters here, Dina, has a blog of her own: Jerusalem Hills Daily Photo.

It’s always a beautiful glimpse into the daily life of a city crammed to the gills with history, but now Dina is on an archaeological dig, so the daily photos take on a whole new historical resonance.

From one of my favorite entries so far:

Hope this won’t make anyone freak out, but my F words for today are femur, fibula, frontal bones, and funerary practices. Of Canaanites who were buried here on the outskirts of Jerusalem some 4,000 years ago.

Last week, to the excitement of all, we uncovered a skeleton in the burial cave I and three others were digging in. Here you can see the skull, arm bones, and ribs.

How exciting is that? I’ve linked to dig blogs before, but I didn’t know those folks so this is even cooler. Vai Dina vai! Sei tutti noi! :notworthy:

Pre-Incan Wari mummy unearthed in Peru

In an upscale Lima neighborhood called Miraflores, there’s a pre-Incan mud brick temple called Huaca Pucllana. Archaeologists excavating it have now found the first intact Wari burial on the site, and it includes a female mummy complete with a snazzy death mask, plus the remains of two other adults and a child.

The Wari people lived and ruled in what is now Peru for some 500 years, between 600 AD and 1100 AD. Their capital was near modern-day Ayacucho, in the Andes, but they traveled widely and are known for their extensive network of roads. […]

Small children were often sacrificed and it is common to find their bodies alongside adult ones. The child discovered with the adult mummies at Huaca Pucllana was likely sacrificed.

The discovery at Huaca Pucllana confirms the Wari people buried their dead in what is now Lima and offers a more complete picture of how burials were done. “This enriches Lima’s story,” Flores said.

The mummy dates to approximately 700 A.D., researchers say.

Web Sea Scrolls

Scholars and museums have been elbowing each other in the face for decades to get access to the famed Dead Sea Scrolls, but because they’re so delicate only a small fraction of the people who’d like to study them get the chance.

Soon the entire internetted world will get that chance.

“The project began as a conservation necessity,” Ms. Shor explained. “We wanted to monitor the deterioration of the scrolls and realized we needed to take precise photographs to watch the process. That’s when we decided to do a comprehensive set of photos, both in color and infrared, to monitor selectively what is happening. We realized then that we could make the entire set of pictures available online to everyone, meaning that anyone will be able to see the scrolls in the kind of detail that no one has until now.”

The digitizing process will take only 1-2 years, which seems fast to me, especially considering how gingerly these fragments must be handled. Once it’s done, every piece of the Dead Sea Scrolls will be available high detail to anyone with an internet connection. Very, very cool.