Making Visible

Once a grave is opened, we not only have to remove the larger bones and catalog them and—very carefully and preserve them, but all of the earth from the grave has to be sifted, screened as we would in an ordinary archaeological site, to recover small items like bullets, bullet fragments, teeth. And here we are early days; you can see that's a very primitive screen. But at that time with no funding, one of our team members, Luis Fondebrider, swiped a screen from his mother's house, and you can see it wasn't a very high-tech operation, but fortunately, you can do archaeology with very simple tools and equipment: brushes, trowels, and some string and some stakes, and you're in business. Once the bones arrive in the laboratory they have to be very carefully arranged. We arrange them in what we call "anatomical order" just as if the person was lying on the table. And then they have to be carefully cleaned, sometimes with just gentle running water to get rid of any adherent soil. And once that's done then we begin our more detailed examination of the bones which takes a lot of careful measurements—the bones of the arms and legs, we measure their length in millimeters and we have formulas that enable us to calculate the person's stature within a certain range of error. And other features on the bone tell us something about the person's age, gender, and if there are signs of old diseases and injuries that might be reflected in that person's medical history.