Discovering the 60 years old secret: identification of the World War II mass grave victims from the island of Daksa near Dubrovnik, Croatia

Boric, Igor; Ljubkovic, Jelena; Sutlovic, Davorka
June 2011
Croatian Medical Journal;Jun2011, Vol. 52 Issue 3, p327
Academic Journal
Aim To describe the organization, field work, forensic anthropological examination, and DNA analysis conducted to identify the victims from a World War II mass grave found on the Dalmatian island of Daksa near Dubrovnik (Croatia) in 2009. Methods Excavation of the site was performed according to standard archeological procedures. Basic anthropological examination was made to determine the minimum number of victims, sex, age at death, and height. The bones with pathological and traumatic changes were identified. DNA was extracted from powdered bones and relatives' blood samples. Y-chromosome and autosomal short tandem repeats (STR) were used to establish the relationship of the remains with the putative family members. Results The remains were found to belong to at least 53 distinctive victims. All were male, mostly with gunshot wounds to the head. DNA analysis and cross-matching of the samples with relatives resulted in 14 positive identifications using the Y-chromosomal STRs and 4 positive identifications using the autosomal STRs. Conclusions This study showed that even in cases of more than 50-year-old, highly degraded human remains from mass graves, Y-chromosomal and autosomal STRs analysis can contribute to identification of the victims.


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