In recent years, exhumation campaigns of mass graves resulting from the armed conflict (1980–2000) between the Maoist guerrillas of PCP-Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) and the States armed forces have increased in Peru. People in rural Andes, the most marginalised sectors of national society, which were also particularly affected by the war, are the main group concerned with exhumations. This article examines the handling, flow and re-appropriation of exhumed human remains in public space to inform sociopolitical issues underlying the reparation policies implemented by the State, sometimes with the support of human rights NGOs. How do the families of victims become involved in this unusual return of their dead? Have the exhumations become a new repertoire of collective action for Andean people seeking to access their fundamental rights and for recognition of their status as citizens? Finally, what do these devices that dignify the dead reveal about the internal workings of Peruvian society – its structural inequities and racism – which permeate the social fabric?
Anne Marie Losonczy
Since the early 1990s, armed actors have invaded territories in the Chocó and Antioquia departments of Colombia, inhabited by Afro-Colombians and Indians whose collective rights in these territories had recently been legally recognised. Based on long-term fieldwork among the Emberá Katío, this article examines social, cosmological and ritual alterations and re-organisation around violent death. Following a national policy of post-conflict reparations, public exhumations and identifications of human remains reveal new local modes of understanding and administration. In particular, suicide, hitherto completely unknown to the Emberá, broke out in a multitude of cases, mostly among the youth. Local discourse attributes this phenomenon to the number of stray corpses resulting from the violence, who are transformed into murderous spirits which shamans can no longer control. The analysis focusses on the unprecedented articulation of a renewed eschatology, the intricate effects of an internal political reorganisation and the simultaneous inroad into their space of new forms of armed insurrectional violence. Thus the article will shed light on the emergence of a new transitional moral economy of death among the Emberá.
Established during the Guatemalan Peace Process, the Oslo Accord contemplates the question of compensating the victims of internal armed conflict. Not only was this accord founded on the principles of victims rights, but it also intends to contribute to the democratic reconstruction of Guatemalan society through a process of recognition of victims status and memory – intended to have a reconciling function. The article focuses on the work of two organisations implementing the Oslo Accord and aims to analyse the discourses and practices of the local actors and their perception of the application of victims rights. Civil society actors and members of the National Compensation Programme demonstrate different approaches both in practical work and in representations of what is right. However, revendication of local cultural values is present in all actors discourse, revealing their ambiguous position in regard to state government.
Jose López Mazz
This article will describe the contemporary scientific techniques used to excavate and identify the dead bodies of disappeared detainees from the Uruguayan dictatorship. It will highlight the developments that have led to increased success by forensic anthropologists and archaeologists in uncovering human remains, as well as their effects, both social and political, on promoting the right to the truth and mechanisms of transitional justice.
Louise Corron, Jean-Marc Dreyfus, Alfredo Gonzalez Ruibal, Claudia Garrido-Varas and Clotilde Pégorier
This article will investigate the process of confronting death in cases of the disappeared of the last military dictatorship in Argentina. Based on the exhumation and identification of the body of a disappeared person, the article will reflect on how the persons social situation can be reconfigured, causing structural changes within the family and other groups. This will be followed by a discussion of the reflections generated by the anthropologist during his or her interview process, as well as an investigation into the authors own experiences in the field. This intimate relationship between the anthropologist and death, through the inevitable contact that takes place among the bodies, causes resonances in the context both of exhumations and of identifications in the anthropologists wider fieldwork.
Middle and New Kingdom comparisons
Among ancient Egyptian writings for good health, two substantial groups are the Ramesseum Papyri (late Middle Kingdom), and the Deir el-Medina+Chester Beatty Papyri (Ramesside Period). The former were found with other writings in a box, at the bottom of a tomb shaft, beside figurines, clappers, worked tusks, beads and writing tools. None of these is inscribed with title or name, leaving the identity of the owner(s) and user(s) uncertain; Egyptologists have interpreted the materials as equipment of a magician, a lector at rituals, or a nurse. The Deir el-Medina+Chester Beatty Papyri also include other writings along with those for good health, and here the social context is secure: the owner was principal accountant managing the primary Project of any reign, creation of the tomb of the king. Comparison of the contents, and of Egyptological reception of each group, offers an opportunity to reconsider the home of health writings in second millennium BC Egypt.
John H. Taylor
This paper is the first publication of a painted wooden figurine which was acquired by the British Museum in 1915. It reproduces in miniature the external features of an anthropoid coffin of the ‘white’ type, attested from the reign of Tuthmosis I to that of Tuthmosis III. The object has no recorded provenance, but on stylistic grounds it appears likely to have been found in the Theban necropolis. The paper includes a full description of the object, and the discussion focuses on the possible function which it might have fulfilled in securing resurrection and the benefits of funerary cult activity for its owner Senty-resti. The iconography of the figurine is probably to be related to the custom, well-attested in the early 18th Dynasty, of enclosing shabti figures within miniature coffins. In this instance both shabti and coffin appear to have been conceptually fused into a single crafted object, which embodied the magical efficacy both of the container and the eternal image whose presence within was implied. An inscription which records that the figurine was dedicated to Senty-resti by a relative, probably her son, reflects the prominent role played by the family or social group in mortuary practices at Thebes in this period.
The treatment of trauma and surgery in ancient Egypt witnessed the development of an elaborate clinical methodology. Today a reassessment of this methodology in the light of more recent studies can further our understanding of these two disciplines in this ancient culture. Breasted’s 1930 translation of the Edward Smith Papyrus was a landmark in understanding the treatment of trauma in ancient Egypt and now a translation by Sanchez and Meltzer in 2012 has provided a new insight into this important medical papyrus. However, certain areas of treatment such as amputations and sustained traction for fractures have not been identified in the textual sources, but recent palaeopathological evidence is able to provide some understanding of these procedures. Additionally, there are a number of problems associated with understanding the compounds and medicaments listed in the medical papyri that were used to treat various ailments. The composition of many of these remedies is unknown whilst others do not have the same composition as their modern equivalents. Some of these materials have proven pharmacological effects, but a number of others have often been dismissed as having no therapeutic value. Recent investigations into the constituents of the remedies demonstrate that materials once thought to be of no therapeutic value may have some benefits and therefore need to be reassessed.