"Operation Carrot" was devised and executed by the Uruguayan military at the time of the country’s return to democracy, between 1983 and 1985. The objective of this secret operation was to exhume all the bodies of disappeared prisoners who had been murdered during the dictatorship, in order either to destroy them or make them disappear permanently. This chapter discusses the tools and methodological processes that allow us to physically identify and then interpret these types of actions, which are often extremely hard to detect, given that they are part of an intentional and systematic attempt by the killers to conceal their past deeds. However, we also seek to develop a better understanding of violence within Uruguayan social and political life: for, while the country’s dictatorship only lasted around ten years (between 1973 and 1984), political violence had already begun in the 1960s in the context of social conflicts surrounding land ownership, wages, and civil rights. It is, we argue, precisely because political violence is deeply rooted in Latin America that we must, in order to analyze it, adopt an integrated historical and anthropological approach which also draws on the more specialised disciplines of archaeology and forensic science.
This article will describe the contemporary scientific techniques used to excavate and
identify the dead bodies of disappeared detainees from the Uruguayan dictatorship. It will
highlight the developments that have led to increased success by forensic anthropologists
and archaeologists in uncovering human remains, as well as their effects, both social and
political, on promoting the right to the truth and mechanisms of transitional justice.