The Bone Woman

The Bone Woman: A Forensic Anthropologist’s Search for Truth in the Mass Graves of Rwanda, Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo

by Clea Koff

Nikki’s Rating: 3 out of 10

Summary: Clea Koff, a forensic anthropologist, gives her honest accounts of uncovering bodies from mass graves as she works on seven UN missions to Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, and Rwanda. Between her and her colleagues, they are able to provide the physical proof of some of the worst atrocities committed in the twentieth century, the very evidence used to prosecute those responsible. While facing the truth of these horrors, Koff remains positive and hopeful throughout, using science to bring a sense of justice and closure to survivors.

A-Z Book Reviews, Book B: The Bone Woman by Clea Koff

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Educational

Being extremely squeamish, I have never wondered about the process of exhuming mass graves but The Bone Woman definitely opened my eyes to how meticulous it is and how much work goes into the whole process. From the supplies needed, the specialists necessary, the painstaking task of trying to identify personal information from a decomposed corpse, to how weather can have disastrous effects on a grave site being exhumed, Koff gives a morbid detailed account of the realities for UN workers working on mass graves.

2. Evidence

The work of Koff and her colleagues led to the actual conviction of several perpetrators of the genocides in Rwanda, Croatia, Kosovo, and Bosnia. Without the physical evidence that her team and others like them dug up, these governments would be able to continuously deny any crime was committed and use propaganda to further their political agendas without facing retribution for the atrocities they orchestrated. Just as importantly, Koff’s work also provided thousands of families with the closure they needed to grieve loved ones who simply disappeared and never came back.

3. Genocide

Koff’s most important point in The Bone Woman is that genocide is usually not committed in a small, spontaneous burst of violence over ethnic or religious issues we we are led to believe but rather is a power play. It is systematically planned out with lots of propaganda and measures already in place before the killing even begins. Genocide is a political agenda to obtain more power and wealth and it can happen anywhere that a government can teach its citizens to view another group of people as different.


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