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Discovery of a mass grave from the Spanish Civil War using GPR and forensic archaeology

Fernández-Álvarez, José-Paulino; Rubio-Melendi, David; Martínez-Velasco, Antxoka; Pringle, Jamie K.; Aguilera, Hector-David


José-Paulino Fernández-Álvarez

David Rubio-Melendi

Antxoka Martínez-Velasco

Hector-David Aguilera


An estimated 500,000 people died from all causes during the Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939, with a further 135,000 killed after the war ended. There are currently over 2,000 known mass burial locations throughout Spain but many more are unknown. This study details the successful search for an unmarked mass grave in mountainous terrain in the Asturias region of Northern Spain. Two approximate locations were known due to eyewitness accounts. A phased site investigation approach was undertaken, which included ground penetrating radar. Results showed a clear geophysical anomaly on 2D GPR profiles. The identified area was subsequently intrusively investigated by forensic archaeologists and human remains were successfully discovered. Careful and sensitive investigations are essential in these approaches where living relatives are involved.


Fernández-Álvarez, J., Rubio-Melendi, D., Martínez-Velasco, A., Pringle, J. K., & Aguilera, H. (2016). Discovery of a mass grave from the Spanish Civil War using GPR and forensic archaeology. Forensic Science International, 267, e10-e17.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 28, 2016
Online Publication Date Jun 14, 2016
Publication Date 2016-10
Journal Forensic Science International
Print ISSN 0379-0738
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 267
Pages e10-e17
Keywords Spanish Civil War, forensic science, forensic geophysics, GPR, forensic archaeology
Publisher URL