Scientists piecing together the evidence from mass graves

I was kindly forwarded this link to an article that explores how scientists are trying to give families evidence and answers about what happened to their loved ones during the war in Bosnia.

There are a number of sections within this article that highlight directly references that I have been exploring.


The remains are laid out on raised trays, and at the foot of each lie possessions and clothing found with the body when it was exhumed, invariably from a mass grave.

It is these possessions that have influenced my thinking a lot. Individual items found with human remains are often, in the first instance, used to help determine individuality. We can dislocate ourselves emotionally, to some extent, from bones but personal possessions in a situation such as this are charged with emotion and poignancy.

The scoured bone windows are “ground into a fine powder, to increase the surface available for testing,” says Bilić

Bone samples were ground to extract dna and relates directly to my piece ‘Momentary’. Here I have used bone ash as a way of showing memory and individuality captured in a brief snapshot of time.

but who are they?

This facility is one in a chain that seeks to answer that question, the work of which is the most remarkable entwinement of science, human rights and justice in the world today. The task of that chain is to locate and exhume the 40,000 people who went missing after the western Balkan wars – the worst carnage to blight Europe since the Third Reich – then to assemble their remains insofar as they can be found, identify them, give them names, and return these dead back to the living for burial. It is scientific work at its most committed and advanced, helping to meet humankind’s most primal need: to bury or in some way ritualise the remains of our dead.

Nameless people with no identity. A mass grave, a single unit, that contains many individual memories that all need to be discovered. This is the basis of all of the work I have explored for this project.


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