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National Geographic Channel International Cancels “Nazi War Diggers”

To AAA members:
This letter was sent on March 31st, 2014, to the National Geographic Society, National Geographic Channels and National Geographic Channel International to protest a program aired in Europe (with a trailer briefly available on YouTube), by the presidents of six anthropological and archeological associations based in the United States and Europe, including the AAA. The effort was spearheaded by Jeff Altschul, President of the Society for American Archeology. The content of the letter provides, I think, sufficient information for you to understand why this program is of concern to all anthropologists. Shortly before the letter was sent, Dr. Altschul received the following statement from John Francis, Vice-President of National Geographic:

“National Geographic Channels International, in consultation with colleagues at the National Geographic Society, announced today that it will pull the series Nazi War Diggers from its schedule indefinitely while questions raised in recent days about allegations about the program can be properly reviewed. While we support the goal of the series, which is to tell the stories of long lost and forgotten soldiers, those left behind and still unaccounted for, and illuminate history working in concert with local governments and authorities, we also take seriously the questions that have been asked. National Geographic Channels is committed to engaging viewers in the exploration of the world and all of us associated with National Geographic are committed to doing our work with the highest standards. We know the same holds true for our producing partners, including our partners on this series.”

We look forward to their response to our letter, and will indicate to them our willingness to work with them to ensure their programming meets the highest professional standards.


Monica Heller
President, American Anthropological Association


Do You Have a Skeleton Needing Investigation?

Today’s guest blog post is from Glenn Swift, the Assistant Producer of a new series on the National Geographic Channel, called History Cold Case. Swift is looking to you for help with this new television show and hopes you will contact him if you have a skeleton that fits the show’s needs. Thank you Glenn!

Courtesy of Science/AAAS via National Geographic

This fall the National Geographic Channel is set to launch a new series- History Cold Case. Based on a critically acclaimed BBC TV show, History Cold Case will follow a team of Forensic Anthropologists and scientists as each episode they uncover the secrets of a mysterious skeleton uncovered during an archaeological dig or discovered in the dusty archives of a museum.

They will use cutting edge science- isotope analysis, Carbon 14 dating, DNA profiling- and good old fashioned techniques- skeletal analysis and historical investigation- to tell the story of the life and times of these forgotten heroes of the American story.

The team will be lead by the creators of a leading forensic anthropology center who, as well as running a world leading facility dedicated to the art and science of identifying human remains, train FBI Agents in body recovery techniques, evidence collection, identification, and excavation of clandestine burials and scattered human remains. Working with specialists in a wide range of disciplines the anthropologists will piece together the story of how these people once lived, the historic times they lived through and how they died. Crucially they will try to give them back their individuality. Facial reconstruction using the latest techniques and in depth historic research will attempt to reveal who each person was and what they looked like.

History Cold Case would like to hear from you or your colleagues if you feel you have a skeleton that needs investigation. As part of the historical element of the show someone from the team will visit the site or the facility where the skeleton originated. The remains would be transported to our forensic HQ for investigation where a small amount of bone and tooth material would be required for analysis. The body, along with the information the team have accumulated, would then be returned to the museum or archaeological society from which they came.

If you have something in your collection that you think fits the bill please get in touch with us!


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