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May 18, 2014

Renowned anthropologist Clyde Snow dies at 86

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NORMAN —

As chief witness at a trial of generals and admirals, Dr. Snow identified victims and causes of death, evidence that led to five convictions, galvanized public opinion and brought some comfort to loved ones.

Widely sought after for his services, he would respond to pleas for help by assembling forensic teams of analysts, including dentists, and travel to all parts. In El Salvador, he and a team found the skeletons of 136 victims killed by army squads. In Croatia, he exhumed the remains of 200 hospital patients and staff members executed by troops. And he helped build criminal cases against military and government leaders behind the atrocities. As a consultant to human rights organizations, he also exposed mass murders in Guatemala, Ethiopia and Iraqi Kurdistan.

In 1985 he went to Brazil on behalf of the Simon Wiesenthal Center to help identify the remains of the long-sought after Nazi Germany officer Josef Mengele, the infamous “Angel of Death,” who directed gruesome medical experiments on inmates at Auschwitz and sent 400,000 to the gas chambers. After World War II, Mengele fled to Brazil, assumed a new identity and died in 1979. Dr. Snow used many measurements, including Mengele’s hat size (retrieved from Nazi SS records) to confirm his true identity.

Dr. Snow helped identify many victims of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. At the behest of Congress, he confirmed that X-rays taken at Kennedy’s autopsy were indeed those of the assassinated president.

With Betty Pat Gatliff, a medical artist, he reconstructed the face of Tutankhamen, whose tomb was discovered in 1922.

In Baghdad, in 2006, he testified against Saddam Hussein, who was convicted of crimes against humanity and hanged.

Dr. Snow had a doctorate in anthropology, but his forensic anthropology skills were self-taught, a result of decades of experience extracting the secrets of bones. He served as a consultant to the Oklahoma and Cook County (Chicago) Medical Examiner’s offices and lectured to law-enforcement and forensic groups.

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