PhD candidate Kelly Kamnikar and Dr. Joseph Hefner Co-PIs on AAFS HHRC grant to analyze skeletal remains from the Soviet-Era Terror in Georgia

Dr. Meri Gonashvili of the Tbilisi State Medical University, Georgia, was awarded $20,000 by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) Humanitarian and Human Rights Resource Center (HHRC) to support the project Anthropological Analysis of Victims of the Soviet-Era Terror in Georgia. Co-Principal Investigators (Co-PIs) on the project include Michigan State University Department of Anthropology doctoral candidate, Kelly Kamnikar, Assistant Professor, Dr. Joseph Hefner, and Texas State University Professor, Dr. Nicholas Herrmann. The Co-PIs will travel to Tbilisi, Georgia to work under the direction of Dr. Gonashvili to excavate and analyze skeletal remains from the Soviet-Era Terror (1937–1938).

The project has four major aims: 1) to analyze and document information from skeletal remains recovered by local clergy from four mass graves in Batumi; 2) excavate a fifth mass grave; 3) re-sample the remains for DNA analysis; and 4) assist with the proper burial of the remains. An additional goal is to collect contextual and physical data from the skeletal remains and associated artifacts to clarify the historical record. These data will serve as a reference for future identification efforts. The remains represent the only physical evidence to date for mass executions of Christian and Muslim Georgians during the Soviet Repressions and will serve to support historical documentation from the period. This collaborative project will allow faculty and doctoral students from MSU and Texas State University to support Georgian forensic practitioners and assist the Christian and Muslim communities in Batumi and surrounding areas.