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Wednesday, May 31 • 3:30pm - 4:00pm
071. (Textiles) What happened to them? Preliminary approaches from conservation discipline in cases of human rights violations during the military dictatorship in Chile.

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September 11, 1973. The President Salvador Allende is overthrown in a coup d'état and the military dictatorship is installed in Chile. For 17 years, the country faced repression practices and violations of human rights that still have not been completely quantified. The official numbers of Valech report (2011) figured 40.280 cases of voluntary testimony which were proved as a political prison, death and torture crimes. In addition, some 200.000 people suffered exile and an unknown number went through clandestine centers and illegal detention. Of the recognized numbers, 3.065 had been dead and missing. Many of them were kidnapped or escorted by soldiers and were not seen again. Is that so, as the question stuck in the collective memory for more than 40 years has been...and where are they? Leaders and perpetrators of these unconfessed crimes are dying in silence, and many families are still asking the same question. That is why in scheduled excavations or finding within the framework of possible missing detainees, the great goal pursued is identify the victims. However, accomplished this goal a new question is installed...what happened to them? This presentation aims to provide a preliminary account for a conservation expertise for clothing of two political executed. This is an ongoing case and it is carried out by a multidisciplinary team of archaeologists and physical anthropologists, as well as professionals from the Legal Medical Service of Santiago. The conservation area was requested with the purpose to detect any alterations in textiles that provide useful information to clarify the circumstances of the investigated deaths. Were used the methodology designed by the laboratory for archaeological textiles studies and the theoretical framework was a systemic understanding of the formation processes of an archaeological site. Extrinsic/intrinsic factors/agents of deterioration/preservation were review in order to be linked to the alteration effects on clothing. At the same time, the forensic reports, autopsy, and testimonial descriptions were used to contrast the consistency of the observed. On the other hand, were carried out analysis to samples of fibers and other "not identified” elements, by optical microscopy and FTIR, in order to complement the hypothesis about the alteration processes. To date, results indicate some discrepancy between the evidence (or lack of evidence) observed in clothing considering facts and burial context, but unfortunately it will be difficult to establish specific hypothesis regarding this last subject. Reflecting what was referred in the first paragraph, these excavations pointed to identify the victims, therefore times for digging are short and focused to that goal, and the background of formation and transformation process of the site, most of the time are dismissed, especially if the sites had been considered as a disturbed area. However, this presentation also intends to suggest what variables are required to consider in-situ despite the disturbance of the site in order to achieve an accurate conservation diagnosis- further on a reasonable doubt- and helps to respond what happened to them, especially because evidence can get into dissonance with the expected, as it is in this case.

avatar for Daniela Bracchitta

Daniela Bracchitta

Conservator, Centro Nacional de Conservacion y Restauracion
I hold a Bachelor degree in Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage, from the International University SEK. Since then, I have been specializing in Conservation of the Archeological record, followed by the participation as a main conservator in diverse field projects in... Read More →


Iván Cáceres


Kenneth Jensen

avatar for María José Manneschi

María José Manneschi

Physical Anthropologist
avatar for Roxana Seguel

Roxana Seguel

Director, Centro Nacional de Conservacion y Restauracion

Wednesday May 31, 2017 3:30pm - 4:00pm CDT
Riverside West Exhibit Hall Exhibit Level, East Tower