Burial space, part 8: data on mass graves in the Balkans

A number of mass graves found in the Balkans offer further examples that help us understand what we can expect from a mass grave of a given size, on the basis of documented experience with wartime mass graves. The short version: mass graves with very low corpse densities (less than one corpse per cubic meter of grave space) are perfectly normal, and this applies even to large and deep mass graves. In particular, this refutes Roberto Muehlenkamp’s arguments on pp. 438-39 of the Holocaust Controversies manifesto.

Crni Vrh mass grave

Summary: 40 m x 5 m x 4 m [800 cubic meters simple volume], 629 bodies, not all of them complete (secondary grave filled with bodies that had previously been buried elsewhere, which were therefore already significantly decomposed when they were buried)


Forensic scientists say they have discovered the remains of almost 500 people in a mass grave in eastern Bosnia, confirming their belief that it is the largest site so far unearthed.

More than 350 complete bodies have been exhumed from the Crni Vrh (Black Peak) grave and experts believe about 100 more skeletons will be dug up.
The experts have not yet reached the bottom of the grave, which measures 40 metres by five metres.

Most sources agree on dimensions of 40 meters by 5 meters by 4 meters for this grave:


The grave is very deep. We are at the depth of four metres, and we are still finding remains.


The remains of 629 people have been recovered from Bosnia’s largest known mass grave, a local official said as forensic experts completed two months of exhumations.
The grave is 40 metres (130 feet) long, four metres deep


40-metre-long and four-metre-deep grave


40-metre by five-metre grave.


40 Meter langen und 5 Meter breiten Grab

One source describes the grave as considerably wider:

This site, where excavations began in late July, is 44 yards by 13 yards – and more than 4 yards deep

Earlier reporting on the BBC gave dimensions of 20 by 4 meters, but this was much earlier in the investigation when the full scale of the grave had apparently not became apparent.

Kevljani mass grave

Summary: 17 m x 6 m x 6 m [612 cubic meters simple volume], 456 bodies


Forensic experts have said they have unearthed the remains of 456 people believed to have been wartime prisoners killed by Bosnian Serb forces in what is the second largest mass grave found so far in Bosnia.

“We completed the exhumation of bodies from the Kevljani grave after we had reached the bottom at six metres depth,” Esad Bajramovic, an official of the Commission for Missing Persons of Bosnia’s Muslim-Croat federation, told Reuters by telephone.

The experts were working on the 17 metre-long and six metre-wide grave in western Bosnia since mid-August.

Glumina mass grave

Summary: 51 m x 9 m x 2 m [918 cubic meters simple volume], or 50 m x 8 m x 2 m [800 cubic meters simple volume], 274 bodies


A total of 274 bodies of Moslem victims of Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war have been exhumed from the biggest mass grave yet discovered in the Balkan country, a human rights activist said on Sunday.

The newly found mass grave, located a few hundred metres (yards) outside Glumina, is 51 metres (168 feet) long and nine metres (30 feet) wide, officials said on Sunday. They had earlier estimated the length at between 70 and 80 metres (230 and 265 feet).

The bodies were buried at a depth of between 30 centimetres (11.8 inches) and two metres (8.5 feet).


They say it is the biggest discovered in the country, containing the bodies of 274 victims.

Officials said on Sunday the newly found mass grave, located a few hundred metres outside the village of Glumina, is 51 metres long and nine metres wide.

A detailed report: 386-2-2-4-4

Branjevo farm mass grave

Summary: somewhat inconsistent data, but we’ll go with 28 m x 5 m x 3 m [420 cubic meters simple volume], 132 bodies found but presumably more originally buried


A mass grave 28 meters long, five meters wide and three meters deep was exhumed at the Branjevo farm. A hundred and thirty two bodies were found in just one part of the grave. Seventy seven victims had their hands tied on their back. The rest of the bodies from the Branjevo mass grave were removed in a clandestine operation to eliminate the evidence of the crime and were taken to the so-called secondary graves.


Bodies had also been removed from the grave in Branjevo before the arrival of Tribunal’s investigators in an attempt to conceal traces of the crime. Haglund said that most part of the grave, which was about 30 meters long and five meters deep, was empty, adding that remains of at least 132 persons were exhumed from another part of that grave.

According to the charges and previously pronounced verdicts, Serb forces killed about 1,200 Muslims on Branjevo

Tomasica mass grave

The recently discovered mass grave site at Tomasica is another example, although work there is still in progress, so conclusions are not final. The number of complete bodies discovered to date is around 200, with some 70 additional partial bodies. Some have suggested that there may have been around 1,000 bodies buried in the grave originally, although the manner in which this statement appeared in earlier reporting suggested that the number might actually refer to the number of missing people in the area, without any proven link to this particular site; things are still unclear on this point. The human remains are reported to begin at around 7 meters depth and to continue to a depth of at least 10 meters. The other dimensions of the grave are unclear. Recent reporting refers to an area of 3,000 square meters, although this is probably divided into sub-graves. The dimensions still need clarification.

The story is still developing, but here are the latest sources:


On Tuesday, the remains of 18 people were unearthed from the grave, which spreads across 3,000 square metres in uninhabited green hills.
The first bodies at Tomasica were found at the depth of seven metres (23 feet) in August and the remains of 240 people have been exhumed to date – believed to be Muslim villagers from the Prijedor area.

Witness accounts have established that around 1,000 people were buried there originally but there are indications that some were subsequently dug up and reburied elsewhere to cover up traces of the crime.


In this mass grave, at the depth of ten (10) meters, complete and incomplete mortal remains of several hundred victims and some personal items of the victims were found.

Currently, the bodies at various depths of the pit are being dug out. The diggings are being carried out at three micro-locations with a few meters’ distance between them, and their depth is ten (10) meters.

Until today, approximately two hundred (200) complete bodies of victims were exhumed, as well as sixty-eight (68) incomplete bodies of victims.


Forensic teams have exhumed the remains of 268 men, women and children buried at Tomasica in the Prijedor area.
“Bodies were found piled up ten metres under the ground’s surface.

For pictures of the site, see here and here.

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2 Responses to Burial space, part 8: data on mass graves in the Balkans

  1. Pingback: Burial space, part 8a: update on the Tomasica site | Holocaust History Channel

  2. Bertie says:

    This poistng knocked my socks off

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