Outrage as National Geographic archaeologists dig up WW2 graves


Mandatory Credit: Photo by Action Press/REX (3435286c)
Musket ball in the mouth of a skull
Mass grave discovered at site of Battle of L?tzen in the Thirty Years' War, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany - 10 Dec 2013
Archaeologists from the State Office for historic preservation of Saxony Anhalt have been excavating a mass grave at the site of the Battle of L?tzen, the pivotal encounter in the Thirty Years War.

The crew unveiled the first tangible evidence in military history of the use of snipers in the Thirty Years' War, as two skulls were discovered with musket balls in the oral cavities - where snipers used to hold their ammunition while firing and reloading.

National Geographic has sparked fury after launching a series on its television channel about excavating war graves on the Eastern Front from World War Two.

The programme, called Nazi War Diggers, is to be aired on 13 May and is about "a race against time to get the history from the ground before it's lost forever."

According to the Daily Mail, a video showing the show's presenters extracting body parts from the ground in Latvia appeared on the TV channel's website. This has now been removed.

National Geographic said: "Unfortunately, a video excerpt from our show posted on our website did not provide important context about our team's methodology."

Tony Pollard, director of the Center for Battlefield Archaeology at the University of Glasgow, told the New York Times: "I have never seen such a casual and improper attitude toward the treatment of human remains. It makes me shiver."

One TV Wise reader commented: "It's also a desecration of war graves for entertainment."

Another said: "This is not an archaeological series as is claimed. It is a grave-robbing series. I saw a clip in which the 'team of four' rip a human femur out of the ground and confuse it with a humerus. It is a disgusting display that should not be aired on television."

"This is a disgusting celebration of grave robbing, National Geographic should be ashamed of itself," said another reader.

On its website, National Geographic said: "All of the excavation featured in the series, including handling of human remains, was supervised by representatives from these organizations, which act under the authority of their country's government and are also backed by the official German and Russian war graves commissions."

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