Origins of EAAF

In late 1984, I got a request from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. They wondered if I could go to Argentina for a few weeks to give the newly established democratic government some advice. It came after the end of roughly eight years of rule by a military dictatorship called the junta. And during that time, thousands of Argentine men, women, and children disappeared. They became known as the desaparecidos, "the disappeared ones." The new government was trying to find out what happened to the disappeared, scenes like this were being played out all over Argentina. After attempting to recruit a team of professionals and finding that none existed in my area of forensic anthropology in Argentina at the time—because the work was considered very dangerous at the time. At this time, the military could have come back in any moment, and the people who would be doing these kinds of investigations would be on the next round of disappearances. I was very fortunate, though. The word had gone out over the student grapevine that I needed some help, and a very gallant little group of Argentine anthropology and medical students came forth and volunteered. And so I decided I would stay down and see if I could train them. I didn't have time for any classroom teaching. We just had to go to work out in the cemeteries where the disappeared were buried, and we spent days and days and days exhuming the graves and taking the bones back to the laboratory to be examined, measured, and do the other things that forensic anthropologists do.