Who Are The Dead?


By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Clues are being sought following the recent discovery of a mass grave containing human remains near LÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¼deritz. A university archaeologist believes that the recent discovery found 20 kilometers north-east of LÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¼deritz last week is similar to that of a grisly find of human remains barely a decade ago, linked to a colonial-era mass grave which contained dozens of skeletons. “I find this discovery very interesting. I don’t know how fresh the remains are but the very hair, skin and some of the military clothing on the remains are somehow similar to what was found at Charllotenthal near LÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¼deritz,” said Archaeology Lecturer at the University of Namibia (Unam), Goodman Gwasira. He said that at least it is known that the people of the Charllotenthal human remains could not have died before 1901. “I still maintain that this looks part of the 1904 war – it’s near the prisoner of war camp at Shark Island.” The military clothing found on the Charllotenthal bones were said to have been introduced by a certain unidentified country. “It’s not Germany or an African country, but the clue was in the military clothing,” he said. In light of this, Gwasira noted that it would not be surprising if more skeletal remains were found underneath the same desert area. “Knowing the history of Namibia around 1901 I will not be surprised at all. It was the time of the genocide and it could somehow be linked to the 1904 genocide,” said Gwasira. What was rather ghastly was when a small media contingent that flew to the suspected mass grave last week spotted a hyena dashing from the scene with a piece of a decomposed hand, raising the suspicion that the spot contains relatively ‘fresh’ human remains. Observations showed that some of the skulls still had some flesh and hair. For Gwasira this was shocking, but not too surprising at the same time. “When looking at the feeding habits of hyenas under extreme circumstances it can eat anything that comes its way,” he explained, adding that it’s a natural scavenger that eats dead meat and bones. Yet studies need to be done on the bones for any gnaw marks to determine whether hyenas have been feeding on the human remains. So are there more human bones underneath the desert, was a question posed by journalists. Speculation by Secretary to Cabinet Frans Kapofi who undertook the trip with local journalists and high profile government officials was that there could be more skeletal remains buried beneath the sand. “I believe if we are to dig down here it will reveal more,” he informed journalists at the site. Desert conditions are known to mummify animal and human remains. It turns out that human remains can be preserved by the generally dry soil which is not very acidic, and the loose sand grains allow air to flow through the soft sand ultimately preserving the organic materials it covers. Gwasira notes that this situation is possible as sand dunes in the desert are constantly moving to the whims of the winds that blow around them. It is likely that the human remains were unearthed by the moving sand dunes as well. However, more clues are needed to determine who these people were, how they got there and the nature of their death. “There’s a need to not only look at the bones but also the funeral artefacts, like wood nails, or things that showed that these people were probably once buried in coffins,” stated Gwasira, adding that while forensics ascertain the DNA, historians can look at other clues of a flu or influenza Consequently, it was advised that a much more wider search is needed to dig out more clues through a fully-fledged team of experts like archaeologists, forensic scientists, historians. Thus it was suggested that an inter-disciplinary team of investigators be despatched to the site. Meanwhile, Kapofi informed New Era that he will soon be compiling and sending his report to Cabinet and the Head of State for appropriate action to be taken on the recently found human remains near LÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¼deritz.