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How AAAS Became Involved
AAAS's involvement in Guatemala began in September of 1991, when Audrey Chapman, accompanied by other AAAS staff members, met with representatives from various human rights groups and officials from the Guatemalan government. Officials with the human rights groups and with other non-governmental organizations asked AAAS to establish and train a forensic anthropology team in Guatemala. Chapman remembers that AAAS staff were concerned about the safety risks that the Guatemalan team would face, but the Guatemalans assured them that they were willing to accept the danger.
The team of local archaeologists and forensic anthropologists later became an organization called the Equipo de Antropologia Forense de Guatemala (EAFG). Several of the original members of the team eventually joined or established other groups of forensic anthropologists, thus increasing the number of exhumations that were conducted.
"AAAS was fundamental to the operation through its support and also by providing expertise in the area of forensics; without it, we would not have been able to lay the groundwork for the future of this project," says Stefan Schmitt, anthropologist and original member of the team in Guatemala.
EAFG began its first exhumations in the village of San Jose Pacho Lemoa at the end of July 1992. Upon completing the exhumation of 12 bodies in August, the team analyzed the findings and data and concluded that these individuals had died of unnatural causes (murder). More exhumations followed in the years to come and the results proved similar.
As the Guatemalan anthropologists have continued their exhumations over the years, the resulting evidence has been used to bring charges of genocide against military and government officials, according to the Times article. As a result, the article notes, threats against the team have increased, and four anthropologists have discontinued their work and left Guatemala.
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