Transcript: Anthropologist Clea Koff on her book The Bone Woman | Oct 16, 2004

Clea Koff addresses an unseen audience in a library. She’s in her thirties, with long wavy black hair. She’s wearing a black sweater.

She says FIRST OF ALL, I
THINK A LOT OF YOU MAY KNOW
WHAT FORENSIC ANTHROPOLOGISTS
DO, BUT I WILL JUST TELL YOU
THAT ESSENTIALLY, FORENSIC
ANTHROPOLOGISTS APPLY TENETS OF
PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY TO THE
HUMAN SKELETON TO TRY AND
IDENTIFY UNIDENTIFIED REMAINS
IN A MEDICAL-LEGAL CONTEXT.
OF COURSE, A LOT OF FORENSIC
ANTHROPOLOGISTS JOKE THAT IF
YOU CAN SPELL IT, YOU ARE ONE.

A picture appears on screen of Clea with rubber gloves on, laying out human bones on a large table as a man in his forties analyzes other bones.

Clea continues BUT REALLY WE JUST LOOK AT THE
HUMAN SKELETON, WHICH IS
RECORDING SOME OF OUR LIFE
EVERYDAY TO DETERMINE HOW OLD
SOMEONE WAS, WHEN THEY DIED, IF
THEY'RE A MALE OR A FEMALE, IF
IT WAS A WOMAN, WHETHER OR NOT
SHE HAD CHILDREN, HOW TALL
SOMEBODY WAS, WHAT DISEASES OR
TRAUMA THEY MIGHT HAVE
EXPERIENCED IN LIFE AND USUALLY
THAT IS DONE IN THE CONTEXT OF
A POLICE INVESTIGATION.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Clea Koff. Forensic Anthropologist. Author, ‘The bone woman.’ U of T Bookstore Reading Series. May 17, 2004."

Clea continues OF COURSE, WE
ACTUALLY WORK OUTSIDE OF THOSE,
YOU KNOW, THE PROSECUTION AND
POLICE.
IT'S NOT LIKE CSI AT ALL.
WE DON'T GET TO WEAR A BADGE OR
SORT OF TRACK PEOPLE DOWN AND
WE ALSO DON'T GET TO BE LIKE
SAM RYAN WHO IS THE FORENSIC
PATHOLOGIST WHO OFTEN ACTUALLY
TALKS TO FAMILY MEMBERS.
AND PEOPLE SAY, “CAN YOU PLEASE
TELL ME HOW DID MY DAUGHTER
DIE?” AND SHE GETS THE SORT OF,
THE GREAT MOMENT OF ACTUALLY
EXPLAINING TO PEOPLE WHAT
HAPPENED, WHICH I THINK IS
SOMETHING THAT, UM, I THINK IT
WOULD BE DIFFICULT TO DO, BUT
IT BE ACTUALLY QUITE FULFILLING
FOR A FORENSIC SCIENTIST.
SO IN MY
TRAINING, WHEN I WAS STUDYING
FORENSIC ANTHROPOLOGY IN THE
STATES, I ACTUALLY WENT TO A
PROGRAM AT THE UNIVERSITY OF
ARIZONA WHERE WE ACTUALLY WENT
TO THE MEDICAL EXAMINERS OFFICE
AND DEALT WITH--I WAS GOING TO
SAY, REAL LIFE CASES BECAUSE TO
ME THAT'S HOW IT WAS.
THESE WERE NOT SORT OF ACADEMIC
CASES, BUT THESE WERE PEOPLE
WHO HAD DIED IN THEIR HOMES AND
MAYBE THE POLICE WEREN'T SURE
WHO THEY WERE BECAUSE THESE
PEOPLE HAD DECOMPOSED OR
SOMEONE HAD DIED IN A CAR
ACCIDENT, BUT WAS BURNED BEYOND
RECOGNITION, AND OF COURSE,
ALSO PEOPLE WHO HAD BEEN MURDERED.
AND SO OUR JOB REALLY WAS TO
DEAL WITH ANYBODY IN ANY STATE
AND TRY AND WORK OUT WHO THEY WERE.
THE FOCUS IS VERY MUCH ON
IDENTIFICATION AND SOMETIMES
SPECIFICALLY HOW SOMEONE DIED.
SO IF SOMEONE HAD BEEN BOTH HIT
OVER THE HEAD AND SHOT, THE
POLICE NEED TO KNOW IN WHICH
ORDER DID IT GO BECAUSE IT
ACTUALLY AFFECTS WHICH CHARGES
THEY CAN BRING AGAINST SOMEONE.
NOW, IN THE COURSE OF DOING
WORK FOR THE UNITED NATIONS
INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL
TRIBUNALS, I DISCOVERED THAT
EVENTUALLY FORENSICS WAS GOING
TO BE USED TO ESTABLISH WHAT I
THINK MOST PEOPLE ALREADY KNEW
ABOUT THINGS THAT HAPPENED IN
RWANDA IN 1994 AND THE FORMER
YUGOSLAVIA IN THE EARLY 1990'S,
WHICH IS THAT GENOCIDE AND WAR
CRIMES AND CRIMES AGAINST
HUMANITY WERE ACTUALLY COMMITTED.
IN OTHER WORDS, WE WERE DEALING
WITH DETERMINING THE MOST BASIC
ELEMENT OF WHAT I THINK OF AS
SORT OF A PYRAMID OF JUSTICE,
WHICH IS THAT YES INDEED,
MURDER WAS COMMITTED

A picture shows a partially dug-up mass grave in a forested area.

Clea continues AND IN
ORDER TO DO THAT WORK WE HAD TO
EXHUME MASS GRAVES THAT WERE IN
CASES THAT THE TRIBUNAL HAD
ALREADY INDICTED PEOPLE FOR THE
RESPONSIBILITY FOR, DETERMINE
WHO WAS IN THE GRAVE, BUT NOT
SO MUCH THEIR IDENTITY, MORE,
HOW MANY MEN, WOMEN AND
CHILDREN ARE WE DEALING WITH?

Another picture shows a young male researcher handling human remains inside the mass grave.

Clea continues HOW OLD WERE THESE PEOPLE?
AND WERE THEY KNOWN COMBATANTS
BECAUSE THAT'S REALLY THE CORE
OF THE CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY.
IN OTHER WORDS, THERE ARE
LAWFUL AND LEGITIMATE TARGETS
IN WAR, BUT CIVILIANS,
CHILDREN, EVEN SOLDIERS WHO ARE
PRISONERS OF WAR, OF COURSE.
ALL THOSE PEOPLE ARE PROTECTED.
ALL OF US, I LIKE TO THINK, ARE
PROTECTED UNDER INTERNATIONAL
HUMANITARIAN LAW AND OF COURSE
THE GENEVA CONVENTIONS AND SO FORTH.
SO I WAS SOMEBODY WHO WAS
ALWAYS FOCUSED ON THESE ISSUES
OF STATE SPONSORED MASS KILLING.
THAT WAS SOMETHING THAT I
ALWAYS WANTED TO DO AND IT CAME
FROM READING A BOOK CALLED
“WITNESSES FROM THE GRAVE: THE
STORIES BONES TELL.”
AND THAT BOOK ACTUALLY
DESCRIBES HOW IN ARGENTINA, ONE
AMERICAN FORENSIC
ANTHROPOLOGIST, CLYDE SNOW,
ACTUALLY BEGAN A FORENSIC
ANTHROPOLOGY TEAM THAT WAS
INVESTIGATING THE
DISAPPEARANCES AND THE DEATHS
OF PEOPLE DURING THE MILITARY
DICTATORSHIP THERE IN THE
1970'S AND 80'S.
WHEN I READ IN THAT BOOK THAT
EFFECTIVELY BONES WERE TALKING
ON THE WITNESS STAND IN FRONT
OF KILLERS WHO HAD THOUGHT THAT
THEY HAD SILENCED PEOPLE
FOREVER, I KNEW THAT, THAT WAS
WHAT I WANTED TO DO AND I WAS
ABOUT 18 YEARS OLD WHEN I READ
THAT AND I WAS STUDYING
ARCHAEOLOGY AT STANFORD AND
ANTHROPOLOGY TO SOME DEGREE.
SO I KNEW I WANTED TO GO IN
THIS FIELD OF HUMAN RIGHTS
RELATED WORK, BUT ALL MY
TRAINING WAS DONE AT THE
MORTUARY DEALING WITH THESE
INDIVIDUAL BODIES.
AND THE WHOLE TIME I KEPT
THINKING, I HOPE I CAN ACTUALLY
GO OUT INTO THE FIELD SOMEDAY.
I SPENT A LOT OF TIME TELLING
PEOPLE MY INTERESTS.
I USED TO COLD CALL PEOPLE UP
AT THE FBI AND SAY, “YOU KNOW,
I REALLY WANT TO DO THIS SORT
OF HUMAN RIGHTS RELATED
FORENSICS AND I'M STUDYING HERE
AND I'M SHE'LL THIS AND WHAT DO
YOU SUGGEST?”
PEOPLE BECAME MY FRIENDS AND
NOTHING REALLY LED ANYWHERE.
THERE WAS NOTHING TO APPLY FOR.
THERE WERE NO INTERNATIONAL
FORENSIC TEAMS AT THAT TIME.
THIS WAS EARLY 1990'S.
SO IN THE MIDST OF STUDYING AT
THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA, I
DECIDED THAT I WAS GOING TO
RAISE MONEY AND TRY TO GO TO
ARGENTINA AND VOLUNTEER FOR THE
FORENSIC ANTHROPOLOGY TEAM.
I WAS 500 dollars TOWARDS MY 3000 dollar
GOAL, ONLY ONE PERSON HAD
CONTRIBUTED, WHEN I RECEIVED A
PHONE CALL FROM BILL HAGLAND
WHO WAS, AT THAT TIME, THE TEAM
LEADER FOR THIS NEW TEAM THAT
WAS GOING TO GO TO RWANDA AND
INVESTIGATE GRAVES ON BEHALF OF
THE UN TRIBUNAL.
FOR ME THE CALL CAME OUT OF THE
BLUE, BUT REALLY I HAD BEEN
RECOMMENDED BY A PROFESSOR WHO
HAD HEARD ME SORT OF TALKING
ABOUT THIS FOR YEARS.
I WAS SOMEONE WHO HAD THE
SKILLS, BUT ALSO THE INTEREST
IN HUMAN RIGHTS WORK.
BUT, OF COURSE, THIS TOOK ME
OUT OF THE MORTUARY, TOOK ME
OUT OF THE LAB, LED ME ON A
VERY INTERESTING JOURNEY, TO
USE A SORT OF BOOK-RELATED TERM.
EVEN THOUGH I WANTED TO GO OUT
INTO THE FIELD OF HUMAN RIGHTS
RELATED FORENSICS, FOR ME WHAT
IT ACTUALLY DID WAS IT TOOK US
OUT OF A PLACE WHERE I DEALT
WITH BODIES OUT OF THEIR
CONTEXT IN A SENSE.
IN OTHER WORDS, I SOMETIMES
WENT TO CRIMES SCENES, BUT
THAT'S REALLY FOR CRIME SCENE
EXAMINERS.
FOR ANTHROPOLOGISTS, WE DEAL
WITH BODIES IN THE MORGUE.
WE NEVER MEET
FAMILIES OR RELATIVES OF THE BODIES.
BUT TO GO TO
RWANDA AFTER THE GENOCIDE AND
TO GO TO THE FORMER YUGOSLAVIA
AFTER THE WAR WAS TO BE IN THE
MIDST OF PEOPLE WHO WERE DEEPLY
AFFECTED BY WHAT WE WERE
FINDING IN THE GRAVES.
BY PEOPLE WHO WERE DEALING WITH
GRIEF AND LOSS AND OF COURSE,
THOSE SORTS OF PEOPLE WERE
AROUND ME EVEN WHEN I WAS
STUDYING, BUT I WASN'T AWARE OF
IT IN THE SAME WAY.

A picture pops up showing groups of people standing in front of long lines of human remains laid on a plastic mat outdoors.

Clea continues WE WERE AT GRAVE SITES, NOT
EXACTLY WHERE FAMILY MEMBERS
COULD COME NEXT TO US BECAUSE
THESE WERE IN FACT CRIME
SCENES, BUT WHERE WE ACTUALLY
MET PEOPLE IN THE END WHO WERE
COMING TO RECOGNIZE, WHO WERE
TRYING TO RECOGNIZE CLOTHING
THAT WE ACTUALLY HAD AROUND,
THAT WE HAD FOUND IN THE GRAVE
AND HAD PUT OUT FOR FAMILIES TO
ATTEMPT TO GIVE US SOME SORT OF
SENSE OF THE IDENTIFICATION OF
THE BODIES INSIDE.
AND IT WAS THROUGH THAT, THAT
ALL OF MY FOCUS ON, YOU KNOW,
BONES SPEAKING ON THE WITNESS
STAND EVOLVED INTO SEEING AT
LEAST THREE LEVELS OF JUSTICE.
ONE THE ONE HAND, THERE WAS THE
BODY OF THE PERSON WHO HAS BEEN
KILLED, WHO HAS BEEN SILENCED.
I BELIEVE THAT ON BASER LEVEL,
THAT THE BODY NEEDS SOME FORM
OF JUSTICE FOR ITSELF.
SO IF SOMEBODY IS IN A
CLANDESTINE GRAVE, I ACTUALLY
BELIEVE IT'S IMPORTANT THAT,
THAT PERSON BE EXHUMED EVEN
THOUGH EXHUMATION IS ACTUALLY A
HORRIBLE THING TO DO BECAUSE
THE BODY IS ACTUALLY GOING
THROUGH A NATURAL PROCESS OF
DECOMPOSITION UNDER THE GROUND
AND WE'RE GOING TO REMOVE IT.

A black and white picture shows two female researchers examining partially decomposed human remains in a lab. A sticker in the background reads “European Union.”

Clea continues BUT I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT THAT
THE BODY BE REMOVED, BE
EXAMINED, SOME ASPECT OF THEIR
DIGNITY RETURNED TO THEM, IF
NOT THEIR IDENTITY.
I BELIEVE THAT ON ANOTHER
LEVEL, YOU HAVE WHAT'S GOING ON
IN THE COURTROOM SO IF THE
EXHUMATION IS TAKING PLACE IN
THE COURSE OF A CRIMINAL
INVESTIGATION, I ACTUALLY THINK
IT'S VERY IMPORTANT THAT, THAT
BASIC LEVEL OF TRUTH ABOUT WHAT
HAPPENED AND TO WHOM AND MAYBE
EVEN WHO DID IT TO THEM COMES OUT.
THEN, OF COURSE, ON THIS OTHER
LEVEL AND THIS IS WHAT I REALLY
FOUND THE MOST MOVING AND OF
COURSE THE MOST DIFFICULT
ASPECT OF DOING THE WORK IS
JUSTICE FOR THE FAMILIES, WHICH
FOR ME, THIS ASPECT GOES ON
LONG AFTER THE TRIALS ARE OVER.
IT GOES ON, UM, FOREVER BECAUSE
FAMILIES DEAL WITH INITIALLY A
DISAPPEARANCE.
THEN THEY DEAL WITH KNOWLEDGE
OF DEATH, IF POSSIBLE, IF WE
CAN EVEN DETERMINE WHETHER THIS
IS THEIR RELATIVE AND THEN THEY
ACTUALLY NEED TO HAVE THE
REMAINS BACK.

Another black and white picture shows a forensic anthropology team working on a partially uncovered mass grave.
In another picture a fractured skull lies on the ground next to a small marker sign.

Clea continues AND SO EVEN IN SITUATIONS WHERE
SOMEBODY MIGHT SAY, OH AN
EXHUMATION IS SORT OF, IT'S A
HORRIBLE THING TO DO.
ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO DIG UP
THE PAST AND SO FORTH.
FROM WHAT I HAVE READ, FROM
WHAT I HAVE SEEN, PEOPLE NEED PROOF.
WHEN I WAS IN RWANDA IN 1996,
WHEN WE HAD THE CLOTHING DAY
AND FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME I
ACTUALLY SAW PEOPLE I KNEW TO
BE RELATED TO BODIES IN THE GRAVE.
FIRST OF ALL, I WAS ASTOUNDED
MY PEOPLE'S COMPOSURE.
I EXPECTED PEOPLE TO BE SORT OF
CRYING AND WAILING.
THERE WAS NONE OF THAT.
OF COURSE THAT MADE ME FEEL
COMPLETELY EMOTIONAL.
BUT I REALIZED THAT SOME OF
THESE PEOPLE ACTUALLY KNEW FOR
A FACT BECAUSE THEY HAD SEEN
WITH THEIR OWN EYES THAT, FOR
EXAMPLE IN THE CASE OF ONE
GIRL, THAT HER MOTHER HAD BEEN
KILLED IN THIS CHURCH AND YET
SHE CAME TO CLOTHING DAY AND I
DESCRIBE IT IN THE BOOK AS
“LOOKING FOR THAT BIT OF PROOF
OR THAT BIT OF MEMORY.”
SHE ALREADY KNEW AND YET SHE
CAME TO CLOTHING DAY IN THE
HOPES THAT THEY WOULD ACTUALLY
GET THE BONES OF HER MOTHER
BACK AND I THINK THAT'S
SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO
RECOGNIZE.
IT'S SOMETHING THAT MEANS EVEN
WHEN SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC WHO ON
TRIAL NOW IN THE HAGUE, YOU
HEAR WOMEN
WHO ARE THE WOMEN WHO HAVE
SURVIVED THE 8000 MEN WHO HAVE
GONE MISSING AND HAVE NOT BEEN
SEEN SINCE EXCEPTING GRAVES.
THOSE WOMEN SAY, YEAH IT'S
GREAT THAT MILOSEVIC IS ON
TRIAL, BUT I'D LIKE THE BONES
OF MY HUSBAND PLEASE.
FOR ME, AS A FORENSIC SCIENTIST
WHO IS SO FOCUSED ON JUSTICE,
COURTROOMS AND DEALING WITH THE
BODY, I CAME TO FIND THAT I WAS
ACTUALLY MORE INTERESTED IN
HELPING FAMILIES DEAL, NOT SO
MUCH WITH CLOSURE BECAUSE I
THINK THAT'S SOMETHING THAT
MUST GO ON AND ON AND ON AND
MAYBE THERE IS NEVER ANY
CLOSURE, BUT GO TOWARDS KNOWING
WHAT'S HAPPENED.
AND IT WAS, UM, BOTH EMOTIONAL
AT TIMES BECAUSE I REALIZED
THAT THE BODIES I WAS DEALING
WITH, THAT I WAS SO INTERESTED
IN BECAUSE I WANTED TO IDENTIFY
THEM OR TO KNOW WHO THEY WERE,
I WAS REALIZING THEY WERE MORE
THAN JUST EVIDENCE AND THEY
WERE MORE THAN JUST THEMSELVES,
THEY WERE SOMEBODY'S RELATIVE.
AND I KNOW THAT, THAT MUST
SOUND, YOU KNOW, WHY DIDN'T YOU
REALIZE THAT BEFORE?
SOMEHOW I HAD NEVER REALLY
LOOKED AT THEM IN THAT WAY.
THE OTHER THING THAT I
DISCOVERED IS THAT ALTHOUGH I
HAD BEEN PERFECTLY AWARE AND
KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT THE FACT
THAT STATES AND POLICE AND
MILITARIES AND MILITIA WILL
KILL CIVILIANS AND HAVE KILLED
CIVILIANS, TO SEE THE BODIES IN
THESE GRAVES, TO SEE THAT THE
PEOPLE IN THE GRAVES WERE THE
SORTS OF PEOPLE WHO HAD LEFT
THEIR HOUSES WITH THE DEEDS TO
THEIR HOUSES IN THEIR POCKETS
WITH THEIR BAPTISMAL CARDS IN
THEIR POCKETS, WITH THEIR
CHILDREN'S DIPLOMAS IN THEIR
POCKETS.

A picture shows a woman around 30 and a boy around 12 in traditional eastern European clothing sitting on the grass.
Then, a clip shows families walking in the snow on a cold winter day. Soldiers help families board a helicopter marked “U.N.”
Then, fast clips show crowded refugee camps.

Clea continues THAT TOLD ME THAT THEY EXPECTED
TO SURVIVE.
THEY EXPECTED THEY WOULD BE
GONE FOR A FEW WEEKS.
WHILE ALL THIS CRAZINESS WAS
RAGING AROUND, THEY WOULD KEEP
THESE THINGS WITH THEM.
IF THEIR HOUSES BURNT DOWN,
THEY WOULD AT LEAST HAVE THESE
THINGS WITH THEM OR IF THEY HAD
TO SET UP LIFE IN ANOTHER TOWN,
THEY WOULD HAVE EVERYTHING WITH
THEM THAT THEY WOULD NEED TO
HAVE.
I SAW THAT IN BOTH RWANDA AND
IN THE FORMER YUGOSLAVIA.
HERE IS RWANDA, WHO WAS
SUPPOSED TO HAVE EXPERIENCED
SOME SORT OF SPONTANEOUS ETHNIC
VIOLENCE, WHICH I NEVER
BELIEVED IN THE FIRST PLACE.
AND HERE IS THE FORMER
YUGOSLAVIA, WHICH IS SUPPOSED
TO HAVE HAD A WAR AND YET THE
BODIES IN THE GRAVES WERE
TELLING THE SAME STORIES.
THEY WERE TELLING STORIES OF
PEOPLE WHO HAD BEEN BROUGHT TO
COLLECTION AREAS, WHO HAD BEEN,
WHO HAD NO WEAPONS ON THEM AS
FAR AS WE COULD SEE.
EVEN IF THEY HAD, THE BODIES IN
THE GRAVES, FOR EXAMPLE AROUND
Srebrenica, STILL HAD
THEIR HANDS TIED BEHIND THEIR
BACKS WITH WIRE.
ON THE ONE HAND, YOU'RE
THINKING THAT'S HORRIBLE.
THIS IS RIDICULOUS.
THEY WERE SHOT WHILE THEY
COULDN'T DEFEND THEMSELVES.
WELL THE NEXT QUESTION I
STARTED TO ASK MYSELF IS HOW
DID ALL THIS WIRE GET HERE IN
The MIDST OF A WAR WHEN MOST
PEOPLE DIDN'T HAVE ENOUGH FLOUR
TO MAKE BREAD?
HOW DID ALL THE FUEL GET HERE
TO DIG THIS GRAVE AT A TIME
WHEN FUEL WAS REALLY QUITE HARD
TO COME BY?
THOSE ARE THE
QUESTIONS THAT I STARTED TO ASK.
YOU COULD ASK THEM ANYWAY, BUT
THERE'S NOTHING LIKE SEEING A
MASS GRAVE FILLED WITH PEOPLE
WHO ARE IN THAT STATE TO REALLY
PUT THE QUESTIONS RIGHT IN
FRONT OF YOUR FACE.
I FOCUSED MY
ANGER, MY FRUSTRATION AND MY
INABILITY TO UNDERSTAND PEOPLE
ON THE PEOPLE WHO ORGANIZED
THESE EVENTS BECAUSE IT'S VERY
CLEAR TO ME THAT WITHIN THE
GRAVES YOU WERE DEALING WITH A
LOT OF PEOPLE WHO COULDN'T GET
AWAY, WHO COULDN'T PAY ANYONE
TO GET AWAY, FAMILY GROUPS,
PEOPLE WHO OFTEN HAD NO CHOICE
AS TO HOW THEIR LIFE WAS GOING
TO GO AND THEY DIED BECAUSE IT
WAS THE WILL OF SOMEONE ELSE
THAT THEY DIE AND THINGS WERE
VERY WELL PLANNED.
EVEN IN RWANDA WHERE PEOPLE
THINK, OH YES SUDDENLY
EVERYTHING HAPPENED.
LISTS WERE ACTUALLY DRAWN UP OF
INTELLECTUALS, POLITICIANS,
VARIOUS PEOPLE TO BE KILLED IN
THE INITIAL STAGES.
ROAD BLOCKS WERE SET UP TO
CHECK PEOPLE'S IDENTITY CARDS.
THIS IS IN A PLACE WHERE
EVERYBODY IS SUPPOSED TO KNOW
WHO'S WHO AND TOOTSIE, BUT THEY
NEEDED PEOPLE'S IDENTITY CARDS
TO LOOK UP FOR SURE IF THEY
WERE KILLING THE RIGHT PERSON.
SO THOSE ARE THE SORTS OF
THINGS THAT HAVE BEEN GOING ON
IN MY HEAD WHILE I'VE BEEN
WORKING IN THE GRAVES AND
SEEING THE BODIES.
I REALIZED THAT, THAT WAS
SOMETHING I NEEDED TO TALK
ABOUT.
I USED TO GIVE A LOT OF
SLIDESHOWS ABOUT THE WORK.
I WAS ASKED TO GIVE THESE
SLIDESHOWS A LOT OF TIME TO
COLLEGE STUDENTS, BUT ALL KINDS
OF AUDIENCES.
INITIALLY, I WAS SORT OF MORE
OR LESS TALKING ABOUT THE WORK
WE DID AND HOW IT EVOLVED AND
THEN I FOUND THAT I WAS REALLY
ACTUALLY TALKING ABOUT THESE
LARGER ISSUES, TRYING TO SHARE
WITH PEOPLE THAT--AND I CAN
TELL FROM PEOPLE'S EXPRESSIONS
HERE THAT SOME OF YOU ALREADY
THINK THIS WAY, BUT TRYING TO
SHARE THAT A LOT OF TIMES THE
HEADLINES THAT WE READ ABOUT,
EVENTS THAT ARE MARKED BY THE
KILLINGS OF CIVILIANS, THERE'S
A LOT MORE GOING ON THAN THE
HEADLINE IS TELLING US.
AND WHEN I SAY A LOT MORE GOING
ON I DON'T MEAN THAT THINGS ARE
COMPLEX.
THINGS ARE REMARKABLY SIMPLE
FOR THE ORGANIZERS AND FOR THE
PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY BENEFIT
FROM THESE CRIMES.
THE OTHER THING I STARTED TO DO
WAS I STARTED TO READ AT THESE
SLIDESHOWS FROM A JOURNAL THAT
I KEPT WHILE I WAS WORKING AND
I HAD KEPT JOURNALS FOR YEARS.
IT WAS SOMETHING I HAD BEEN
GOING.
IN HIGH SCHOOL, I THINK I WAS
SOMETHING THAT WAS FILLED WITH,
OH I HAVE A CRUSH ON SO AND SO
AND I WENT TO SEE THIS MOVIE
AND OF COURSE MY DAILY
ACTIVITIES CHANGED A BIT AND I
ACTUALLY READ EXCERPTS
SOMETIMES JUST TO GIVE PEOPLE A
CHANCE TO LAUGH OR SOMETHING
DIFFERENT FROM ELSE WAS GOING
ON IN THE SLIDESHOW.
PEOPLE STARTED TO ASK ME, HAVE
YOU CONSIDERED WRITING A BOOK?
AND FOR YEARS, I KEPT SAYING
NO, I WON'T.
I DON'T WANT TO.
I DON'T KNOW THAT I HAVE ENOUGH
PERSPECTIVE TO ACTUALLY SAY
SOMETHING MEANINGFUL.
WHEN I SAME BACK FROM KOSOVO IN
2000 AND THAT WAS ON THE
SEVENTH MISSION I HAD BEEN ON,
I REALIZED THAT I HAD BEEN
SEEING PEOPLE IN KOSOVO WHO
REMINDED OF PEOPLE I HAD SEEN
IN RWANDA ESPECIALLY VERY OLD
PEOPLE, A LOT OF PEOPLE SHOT IN
THE BACK AND IN THE BUTTOCKS,
PEOPLE TRYING TO RUN AWAY.
PEOPLE WHO COULD BARELY RUN
ANYWAY, AS WE CAN SEE FROM
PEOPLE'S BONES.
HAVING INCENDIARY TRACER
BULLETS IN THEIR BACKS, IN
THEIR BACKS, LODGED IN THEIR
CLOTHING AND SO FORTH.
SEEING THAT AND THINKING ABOUT
RWANDA MADE ME THINK, OKAY,
I'LL GIVE A SHOT A WRITING SOME
OF THIS DOWN AND WHAT I'VE DONE
WITH THIS BOOK IS I'VE TRIED TO
TAKE YOU TO THE GRAVES, BUT
YOU'RE ALWAYS LOOKING OVER MY SHOULDER.

A picture shows the cover of her book “The bone woman.” It features pictures of a piece of jewellery, a key and a watch, as well as pictures of a team of forensic anthropologists working with human remains.

Clea continues YOU'RE NEVER LEFT IN THERE.
IT'S BECAUSE I BELIEVE ACTUALLY
WITH THE FACTS, ALL OF US CAN
MORE OR LESS WORK OUT WHAT'S GOING ON.

Other pictures flash by: clothed human remains in a mass grave, anthropologists digging up a mass grave, a digging site marked in the jungle, a partially uncovered skeleton by a tree in reddish soil.

Clea continues I'M GOING OUTSIDE OF POLITICS
AND THE POLITICS OF EVERYONE IN
THE GRAVE.
I'M JUST TALKING ABOUT BASIC
HUMAN RIGHTS, THINGS THAT
HAPPENED THAT SHOULDN'T HAVE
HAPPENED, THINGS THAT ARE
RECOGNIZABLE, THINGS THAT ARE
PREVENTABLE.
THE FACT THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE
WERE CO-OPTED INTO KILLING AND
THAT IF PEOPLE FOCUS ON THE
POTENTIAL FOR SOLIDARITY
AMONGST THEMSELVES, THE REGULAR
PEOPLE, IF WE FOCUS ON HOW WE
ARE MORE LIKE EACH OTHER THAN
THE PERSON ON THE RADIO WHO IS
TELLING US TO DIVIDE OVER
ETHNICITY OR OVER OUR RELIGION,
WE ACTUALLY ARE THE FRONTLINE
IN PREVENTION.
I DON'T THINK IT'S ABOUT
MILITARY INTERVENTION, PER SE,
I THINK IT ACTUALLY HAPPENS
WITHIN COUNTRIES.
AND SO I BROUGHT FORWARD BITS
FROM THE JOURNAL IN ORDER TO
BRING IN DETAILS INTO THE BOOK,
BUT I ALSO SPENT A LOT OF TIME
GETTING IN TOUCH WITH SOME OF
THE EMOTIONS I MORE OR LESS
STOPPERED UP WHILE I WAS
WORKING AND THEY'RE NOT ALL
DIFFICULT EMOTIONS, BUT SOME OF
THEM ARE AND I THINK THAT WE
CAN ALL GO THERE.
FOR ME,
ESPECIALLY WHEN I WENT TO
RWANDA, UM, I HAD BY THAT TIME
BEEN HOPING TO WORK IN THE
INVESTIGATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
ABUSES FOR ABOUT SIX YEARS AND
I WAS, I HAD BEEN TRAINING AND
STUDYING AND HOPING TO BE--I
SHOULDN'T SAY IN A PLACE LIKE
THAT, BUT IN A PLACE WHERE
THERE WERE PEOPLE THAT HAD BEEN
LEFT BEHIND REALLY.
PEOPLE WHO WERE NOT BURIED OR
HAD NOT BEEN RETURNED TO THEIR
FAMILIES.
AND SO THE VERY FIRST DAY I WAS
ACTUALLY ON THE HILLSIDE BELOW
A CHURCH IN
WESTERN RWANDA, WHICH IS WHERE
WE WORKED ON THE FIRST SITE AND
I WAS WORKING WITH MY, A
PARTNER, ROXANNA AND SHE HAD
GONE TO GET THE PHOTOGRAPHER
AND IN THIS MOMENT I WAS ALONE
WITH THIS SKULL.
I ALREADY KNEW THAT IT WAS
PROBABLY THAT OF A MALE.
I COULDN'T MOVE IT BECAUSE THE
PHOTOGRAPHER WASN'T THERE AND
YOU KNOW YOU CAN'T MOVE IT
UNTIL IT'S BEEN PHOTOGRAPHED
AND SEEN TO AND THERE WAS A
VERY LARGE CUT IN THE BACK OF
HIS HEAD.
IT WAS VERY DEEP.
NORMALLY WHEN I HAD SEEN
STABBING OR CUTTING WOUNDS IN
ARIZONA, IF IT WAS ON THE HEAD,
YOU KNOW, THE CUTS DIDN'T
ACTUALLY GO THROUGH THE FIRST--
WE HAVE TWO CRANIAL LAYERS TO
OUR CRANIA AND NORMALLY WE
DON'T ACTUALLY GO THROUGH TO
THE INNER LEVEL AND THIS CUT
HAD REALLY GONE THROUGH BONE.
IT WAS VIOLENT.
IT WAS SERIOUS, YOU KNOW, IT
WAS MEANT TO KILL AND YET I
REALIZED I'M FINALLY GOING TO
BE ABLE TO HELP.
I SHOULD HAVE PROBABLY THOUGHT
ABOUT MY WORK THAT WAY ALL THE
TIME BECAUSE WE WERE ALWAYS
HELPING AND YET THAT FEELING
CAUSED A SMILE TO ACTUALLY
BUBBLE UP FROM INSIDE AND IT'S
NOT A SORT OF GHOULISH THING.
IT'S BECAUSE FINALLY WE CAN DO
SOMETHING.
ONE THING I'VE JUST SEEN SO
MUCH AND, AGAIN, A VERY STRANGE
THOUGHT FOR A FORENSIC
SCIENTIST IS THAT WE CAN'T
BRING ANYBODY BACK.
THAT FOR ME...

Her voice breaks and she pauses for composure.

With her eyes filled with tears, and in a shaky voice, she continues
IS ODD.
I WONDER BECAUSE I DON'T
ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND HOW IT IS
THAT PEOPLE ACTUALLY DIE
BECAUSE I DEAL WITH PEOPLE
AFTER DEATH.
WE ACTUALLY WITNESSED AN
EXECUTION.
WE DIDN'T REALIZE THAT IT WAS
GOING TO HAPPEN WHEN WE WERE
There AND THAT
AFFECTED MY WHOLE APPROACH
TOWARDS MY OWN LIFE, BUT ALSO
THE REALIZATION THAT LIFE CAN
GO LIKE THAT IF PEOPLE MEAN TO
TAKE IT,
AND SO FOR ME--I'M EMOTIONAL
NOW IN THIS WAY, BUT I ACTUALLY
FOUND THE MOST FULFILLMENT FROM
BEING IN THE GRAVES.
THAT FIRST MOMENT OF LIFTING A
BODY OUT OF THE GROUND,
ESPECIALLY A BODY FROM A
CLANDESTINE GRAVE, THE THOUGHT
THAT YOU WERE THE FIRST PERSON
THERE SINCE SOMEBODY TRIED TO
HIDE THEM.
IT'S MUCH MORE DIFFICULT FOR ME
TO TALK ABOUT THIS THAN IT IS
TO DO IT.
AND I ALWAYS, ALMOST ALWAYS
SMILED.
STRANGELY ENOUGH, EVEN WHEN WE
SEE THE BODIES OF CHILDREN, YOU
DON'T HAVE A MOMENT WHEN YOU
THINK, OH THIS IS SAD.
YOU, YOU'RE FACE, FIRST OF ALL,
WITH A LOT MORE SIGNS OF HOW
OLD SOMEONE WAS AND YOU CAN
ACTUALLY GET AGE TO A MUCH
CLOSER RANGE SO YOU REALLY
FOCUS IN ON YOUR WORK AND YOU
DON'T STEP BACK INTO WHAT IT
REPRESENTS AND THAT'S WHAT
WRITING THE BOOK MADE ME DO.
I WANTED TO MAKE SURE THAT YOU
KNEW THAT THE BOOK REALLY ISN'T
TOO HEAVY AND IT'S NOT A HARD READ.
UM, IT'S VERY MUCH SORT OF LIKE
ME TALKING AND I WANT TO READ
YOU A LITTLE SECTION.
THIS IS FROM THE KOSOVO CHAPTER
AND, UM, IT'S FROM A CHAPTER--
SORRY, IT'S FROM THE KOSOVO
PART AND IT'S A CHAPTER CALLED
“SPIRITUAL SUSTENANCE.”
AND, UM, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT
I WAS DESCRIBING IN THIS PART
OF THE BOOK WAS HOW WHEN I
FIRST WENT OUR ON MISSIONS IN
1996, IT REALLY WASN'T A
POPULAR THING TO DO.
THERE WEREN'T A LOT OF FORENSIC
FOLKS WHO WERE INTERESTED IN
GOING OVERSEAS AND OF COURSE WE
DON'T ACTUALLY GET PAID SO A
LOT OF PEOPLE WEREN'T REALLY
INTERESTED IN VOLUNTEERING
THEIR TIME FOR THIS AND IT'S
BECOME VERY MUCH A POPULAR
THING TO DO, WHICH IS GOOD.
AND IT ALSO MEANS THAT THE
TEAMS HAVE GOTTEN LARGER.
THERE'S A BIT MORE FUNDING FOR
THE TEAMS AND SO WE SOMETIMES
MIGHT HAVE 90 PEOPLE WORKING AT
ANY GIVEN TIME.
SO, FOR EXAMPLE IN KOSOVO, WE
MIGHT HAVE THREE GRAVES SITES
THAT WE WERE TRYING TO DEAL
WITH ALL AT ONCE AND SO INSTEAD
OF LIVING TOGETHER IN A
GUESTHOUSE, AS WE DID
OR LIVING WITH
THE MILITARY AS WE DID IN
BOSNIA, AND MORE OF LESS
FEELING LIKE A CLOSE KNIT TEAM,
WE WERE ALL SPREAD OUT.
WHAT THIS MEANT OF COURSE IS
THAT WE DIDN'T OFTEN HAVE TEAM
MEETINGS.
WE DIDN'T ALWAYS KNOW EACH
OTHER.
WE DIDN'T KNOW NECESSARILY WHO
WAS DOING WHAT ON THE TEAM.
UH, WE ALSO HAD AN
INTERNATIONAL TEAM, WHICH WAS
FANTASTIC.
BUT THIS IS KOSOVO I FELT WE
HAD GOTTEN TO THE WORST STATE.
TO ME IT WAS THE WORST STATE
BECAUSE I THINK THAT PART OF
HOW YOU GET THROUGH THE WORK IS
TO FEEL LIKE YOU'RE PART OF A
GROUP THAT'S KIND OF, YOU KNOW,
THAT'S NOT QUITE DAVID AND
GOLIATH, BUT YOU'RE FIGHTING
SOMETHING LARGE.
YOU DON'T HAVE
THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT.
YOU DON'T HAVE ENOUGH FOOD.
YOU DIDN'T HAVE ENOUGH ENERGY.
YOU DON'T HAVE ANY ELECTRICITY
AND YOU'RE GOING FORWARD
ANYWAY.
SO HERE WE GO.
THIS IS FROM PAGE 244.
“OUTSIDE THE MORGUE LIFE WAS
ALREADY AS ROUTINE AS IT COULD GET.
AS THE TEAM HAD BURGEONED AND
RENTED MORE HOUSES AROUND
THE MEMBERS
KNEW EACH OTHER LESS AND LESS WELL.
SO A WEEKLY TEAM GET TOGETHER
WAS ESTABLISHED AT A LOCAL
PLACE CALLED “THE BEST BAR.”
THIS CANDLELIT INTERIOR WAS
DESIGNED LIKE A GROTTO.
PEOPLE WHO HAD BROUGHT THEIR
GUITARS PLAYED AND OTHERS
DANCED AND TALKED.
VARIOUS TEAM MEMBERS WERE ALSO
ISSUED WALKIE-TALKIE RADIOS TO
IMPROVE LOGISTICS ONCE WE WERE
ALL AT OUR SEPARATE HOUSES.
PEOPLE QUITE ENJOYED THIS NEW
FORM OF COMMUNICATION.
“INDIA ECHO THREE-THREE,
THIS IS INDIA ECHO THREE-FIVE.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING RIGHT NOW?
OVER.”
“INDIA ECHO THREE-FIVE.
WATCHING TV.”
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
OVER.”
“WHILE SECURITY STRUGGLED TO
KEEP IT UNDER CONTROL.
“BREAK, BREAK.
INDIA, BREAK ALL ECHOES.
THIS IS NOT A TELEPHONE.
I REPEAT.
THIS IS NOT A TELEPHONE.”
THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

[Applause]

Watch: Anthropologist Clea Koff on her book The Bone Woman