Francisco Pizarro, Wrong Body in Coffin and Forensic Anthropology

Francisco Pizarro was Spanish conqueror who conquered Peru. Peru then was ruled by Inca people, with Atahualpa as their king. Incan empire was very rich and Pizarro wanted to conquer it for Spain.


He failed in his earlier attempts, but finally in the Battle of Cajamarca, he defeated Incas and captured Atahualpa. To release their King Incas were forced to pay ransom. Ransom was to fill entire room with gold, which they paid. But Pizarro had no intentions of honouring his commitment; he took gold and killed Atahualpa.

Killing of Atahualpa displeased King Charles of Spain.

“We have been displeased by the death of Atahualpa, since he was a monarch, and particularly as it was done in the name of justice.”

  • King Charles of Spain in letter to Pizzaro.


Pizarro conquered Peru and founded city of Lima. But this success of Pizarro also created enemies. Pizarro and his brothers got into dispute with Almagro. Pizarro brothers and Almagro fought with each other in Battle of Las Salinas in 1538. Almagro was defeated and was executed by Pizarro brothers and his property was seized. All this resulted in Almagro’s son Diego Almagro II becoming bankrupt.


Diego decided to take revenge. In 1541 he entered palace of Pizarro and attacked him, first they disabled Pizarro by cutting his throat and then he was stabbed number of times till he died.

Head and body of Pizarro were separated and kept separate boxes and these boxes were hidden in a cathedral. Historical records state that the body was moved to some other place. Sometime in 1891 a body claimed to be that of Pizzaro was kept in glass coffin in cathedral. But there were other skeletons which people claimed were of Pizzaro. Finally American forensic anthropologist William Maples was called to find out which skeleton was authentic. He was given three boxes one box had skull and other two boxes had bones. On examination it was found that skull in one box and skeleton in one of the two other boxes belonged to same person, and it bore marks of stabbing, it showed 14 cut marks on vertebral column, arms and head. The cuts in skull and skeleton matched with description of attack in historical records. It was confirmed that body in glass coffin did not belong to Pizzaro as it did not bear any marks of stabbing.


Finally right body was put in glass coffin, which today can be seen in the cathedral.






Forensic Anthropology, Romanov Family and Fake Princess Anastasia

“Nikolai Alexandrovich, in view of the fact that your relatives are continuing their attack on Soviet Russia, the Ural Executive Committee has decided to execute you.”

-Yakov Yurovsky, man who killed members of Romanov family

Post Russian revolution, a secret police organisation called Cheka was created, whose job was to eliminate all the enemies of Bolshevik revolution. Yakov Yurovsky was local head of Cheka.


City of Yekaterinburg, in Urals had place called Ipatiev House, in which some enemies of Bolshevik revolution were kept. Prisoners consisted for Nikolai Alexandrovich, his wife Alexandra, their four daughters Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, their son Alexei, their physician Dr. Yevgeny Botkin and three servants.

On 17th of July 1917, Yurovsky called all prisoners and told them to sit for a photograph. Instead of photograph he read out death sentence and within seconds he and his firing squad started firing  bullets at them. Some members died but their young daughters and one servant survived. Bullets could not penetrate their bodies. Firing squad decided to stab them and smashed their skulls.

Later Yurovsky found that dress of daughters had diamonds stitched in it, these diamonds were protecting them from bullets, while servant had pillow full of diamond jewellery which protected her from bullets.

Sulphuric acid was poured on bodies and then burned and buried in some unknown place. Communists who ruled Russia post revolution did not want world to know about this murder. But it did not remain secret for long.

Nikolai Alexandrovich was not an ordinary person. He was son of Emperor Alexander III of Russia who belonged to Romanov dynasty. He was related to several royal families of Europe. After his father’s death he became Emperor Nicholas II of Russia. Nicholas was married to German princess Alexandra, who was granddaughter of British monarch Queen Victoria.


They had five children, four daughters and one son.  Nicholas was incompetent monarch; he lost war with Japan and later suffered huge losses during First World War. He was overthrown by revolutionaries and kept prisoner and later killed.

Later when communist regime was overthrown in Russia, American forensic anthropologist William Maples and human geneticist Mary Claire King were allowed to examine remains that were dug out from a pit beneath a road.  It was believed that remains were of royal family. In 1997 after studying bones and doing DNA analysis it was confirmed that bodies were of King, his wife, 3 daughters and four servants.  For DNA analysis the samples were taken from members of British royal family and from body of King’s brother. But bodies of one daughter and son were missing. There was dispute between investigators over which daughter was missing- Maria or Anastasia.


Long before DNA analysis there were rumours that some members of Romanov family has escaped execution and were hiding somewhere in Europe. There were claims by some ladies that they were Anastasia. Strongest claim was by lady called Anna Anderson; lot of people supported her claim. Anna died in 1984 in US.


Once forensic evidence proved bodies were of royal family, it become possible to analyse claims of Anna Anderson. When Anna had undergone a surgery a part of her intestine was preserved in hospital. It was used for DNA analysis; it did not match with DNA sample of royal family.  Her DNA matched with members of Polish family called Schanzkowska. It was found that Anna Anderson was Franziska Schanzkowska a worker in Polish factory.

In 2007 two burned skeletons were found, DNA analysis proved that they belonged to son and daughter of Queen Alexandra.

With this remains of all members of royal family were traced and it was proved no one survived the assassination.




Dark Triad and Indrani Mukherjee

“Dark Personality Traits Can Help People Rise Through Ranks”

-Sue Shellenbarger in WSJ

Psychologist Delroy Paulhus proposed a term called Dark Triad. Dark triad is collection of three personality traits – Narcissism, Machiavellianism and Psychopathy. People having such traits (single or combination) are not viewed positively by society, hence dark traits.

Narcissism is excessive love for self and lack of empathy for others, Machiavellianism is about manipulating others for selfish interest while Psychopathy is about lack of remorse for immoral behaviour.

Many criminals have combination of these three traits. Even successful executives exhibit these traits, but in milder form than criminals. Some executives owe their success to dark triad- Narcissism (egoistic, boasting), Machiavellianism (manipulating others to succeed) and Psychopathy (no remorse for problems created for others due to manipulation).


Ex CEO of INX Media Indrani Mukherjee is example of how someone with dark triad can succeed. Indrani started her career with placement agency called INX (Indrani with X factor) and after marriage with ex CEO of Star TV Peter Mukherjee became CEO of media company INX media. Indrani was never shy of publicity.

World was not aware of her dark traits till anonymous caller tipped Mumbai police about murder of her sister Sheena Bora. Soon Indrani Mukherjee, her driver and her ex-husband were arrested and world came to know about her dark traits.

During investigation it was found that Sheena was her daughter from first husband (from whom she also has one son) whom she introduced to world as her sister, she also has one daughter from second husband (Peter is third husband, Peter was not aware of first husband).  Indrani claims that she killed Sheena because Sheena was blackmailing her (threated her to tell Peter about their actual relationship and first husband). Sheena was in love with Peter’s son Rahul ( from his earlier wife), Indrani was against this relationship as that would expose her past. Indrani manipulated her second husband in believing that Sheena could kill their daughter to acquire property. So second husband became part of plan to kill Sheena, she also included driver in the plan.


Post murder, Indrani kept Sheena “alive” by send messages from her phone, loading photographs on her facebook and telling everyone that Sheena had settled in US.

During investigation Indrani did not show any remorse for her actions.



Game Theory, Problems of Farmers and Suicides

“We found that in many cases, even a loan as small as Rs 10,000 was enough to push the farmer over the edge. This figure says a lot about how little faith farmers have in the ability and willingness of the state to help them”

– Madhukar Gumble, director of Kisan Mitra.

Recently two film actors Nana Patekar and Makarand Anaspure decided to gift cheques of Rs. 15000 to widows of Maharastrian farmers who committed suicide. Inspired by this, noted Hindi film actor Akshay Kumar decided to donate Rs. 90, 00,000 to families of farmers who committed suicide in Maharashtra.

Now question is why Rs.15000?

Of 3000 farmers in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra who committed suicide, nearly 900 had outstanding debt ranging between Rs.10000 to Rs.15000.

While political parties keep debating issues and announce one scheme after another, not much has changed.

Reasons for hopeless condition of farmers are debts on which they pay very high interest rates to money lenders, small size of land holding, lack of good quality of seeds and fertilizers, poor irrigation system, lack of infrastructure to transport and sell their produce at profitable price.



”The average size of holdings for all operational classes (small & marginal, medium and large) have declined over the years and for all classes put together it has come down to 1.16 hectare in 2010-11 from 2.82 hectare in 1970-71.”

-Agriculture Census 2010-11

One of main reason of small size of land holding is due to large size of family and land getting split between family members. Small size of land holding results in lower productivity as it results in high cost of seeds, fertilizers and agriculture. Solution lies in cooperation, i.e. if each one of them lease their land to bigger farmer, then it becomes economic to mechanize farming and productivity will go up other alternative could be farmers consolidating their landholding and pooling resources to improve productivity.

But cooperation requires trust and faith in each other and in legal system. Unfortunately it is lacking.

 “Substantial chunks of scarce land remain untilled because of landowners’ reluctance to lease out land for fear of losing its ownership.”

-Agriculture Census 2010-11

Those familiar with game theory will not find it difficult to comprehend this situation, lack of faith leads to farmers sticking to Nash equilibrium of Split, Split, while Consolidate, Consolidate will give higher payoffs. Consolidate, Split can give temporary benefit where you can avail of benefit of cooperation and then split, but this strategy will result in retaliation from other player and game will be back to Nash equilibrium.


China too faces same problem of huge population and small size landholding but their productivity is higher due to leasing of land, use of quality seeds and fertilizers and good infrastructure.


Siege of Leningrad, Tanya Savicheva and Leonid Kantorovich

During Second World War Germans surrounded city of Leningrad (now called Saint Petersberg) and stopped all supplies to the residents of city. Hitler wanted to kill all the residents of city by starving them. Siege of city resulted thousands of people dying due to starvation. One such resident, whose family faced starvation, was an 11 years old girl called Tanya Savicheva. Due to siege one after the other, members of her family started dying.

Tanya maintained a diary during this period and content of dairy were…

Zhenya died on Dec. 28th at 12:00 P.M. 1941

Grandma died on Jan. 25th 3:00 P.M. 1942

 Leka died on March 17th at 5:00 A.M. 1942

 Uncle Vasya died on Apr. 13th at 2:00 after midnight 1942

 Uncle Lesha on May 10th at 4:00 P.M. 1942

 Mother on May 13th at 7:30 A.M. 1942

 Savichevs died.

 Everyone died.

 Only Tanya is left.


How did Tanya manage to survive?  To a large extent credit goes to mathematician Leonid Kantorovich.

Leonid Kantorovich was Russian mathematician and economist. He was keen to put his knowledge of mathematics to some practical use. He got in touch with Plywood Board of Russia (then Soviet Union) and worked with them in improving production taking into account various factors like raw material, labour, machinery etc. This technique of getting optimal production was called as Linear Programming. Linear programming was later used by military to optimise its resources. In 1947 two US based mathematicians George Dantzing and John von Neumann made further advancements in linear programming. Dantzing introduced Simplex methods to solve linear programming equations while Neumann who is father of game theory, introduced concept of duality. He found application of linear programming in game theory.


During same period another American mathematician and economist Tjalling Koopmans was in similar area. In 1975 Kantorovich and Koopmans were jointly awarded Noble prize in economics for their contributions to the theory of optimum allocation of resources.

Now coming back to our story, though Leningrad was surrounded from all sides by Germans, there was narrow strip of land which was still under Russia’s control which connected Lake Ladoga with Leningrad. This strip of land was Leningrad’s life line it was also called “Road of Life”. During winter Lake Ladoga was frozen so an ice road was made to carry supplies and for evacuation. Ice roads are dangerous because ice can crack under the weight of vehicles, resulting in loss of life due to drowning.

Kantorovich was made in charge of this ice road called Road of Life.  He took into consideration various factors like thickness of ice, temperature, speed and distance between two vehicles to ensure that vehicles carrying supplies did not sink.

During one such evacuation exercise the Russian army managed to rescue Tanya. Unfortunately Tanya did not survive of long within two years of rescue operation she died due to tuberculosis.






Offender Profiling, Serial Killer and Silence of Lambs

Hannibal Lecter: First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this man you seek?

Clarice Starling: He kills women…

Hannibal Lecter: No. That is incidental. What is the first and principal thing he does? What needs does he serve by killing?

Clarice Starling: Anger, um, social acceptance, and, huh, sexual frustrations, sir…

Hannibal Lecter: No! He covets. That is his nature. And how do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet? Make an effort to answer now.

-Silence of Lambs

In June 1973, Jaeger family had gone for a camping trip. During night their 7 years old daughter was kidnapped from tent, her parents were sleeping and were unaware about what happened during night.

Case was handed over to FBI. FBI agent Byron Dunbar, who was handling the case decided to take help of Behavioural Science Unit of FBI.

Behavioural Science Unit was formed in 1972. Two FBI agents Howard Teten and Patrick Mullany who were part of this unit were working on a profiling technique called offender profiling which consists of using profiling techniques of psychology to design profile of unknown offender.

Tetan and Mullany were keen to put their technique into practice and they decided to use it Susan Jaeger case.

Teten and Mullany after talking to parents and visiting the site came to conclusion that kidnapper was white male, in mid twenties, who liked to mutilate his victim and would keep organs of victim with him as souvenirs.

Dunbar felt that it was likely that kidnapper would call Jaegar family to know how investigation was progressing, so he asked Jaegar family to record all the calls that they received. On 25th June 1974 exactly one year after Susan was kidnapped, Jaegar family received a call, the caller told them Susan was with him and was currently in Europe. In September he again called Jaegar family. Both calls were recorded by Susan’s mother Marietta.

Dunbar identified caller as David Meirhofer. David was 25 years old white male.


David Meirhofer was arrested and he confessed that he had killed Susan and burned her body but had kept her head. He also confessed that he had committed three more murders. He had killed two boys Bernard Poelman and Michael Raney. He had also killed his ex-girlfriend Sandra Dykman Smallegan in February 1974 and like Susan he burned her body after killing her but preserved her hands by keeping them in freezer.

This was first time offender profiling was done resulting in serial killer Meirhofer getting arrested.

After confessing his crime Meirhofer committed suicide by hanging himself in jail.

This technique is now popular and is widely used in finding offenders.


In 1991 a film was made called Silence of Lambs, in film a FBI agent Clarice Starling ( played by Jodie Foster) from FBI’s Behavioural Science Unit is asked find serial killer nicknamed Buffalo Bill. In this she is helped by a prisoner called Hannibal Lecter (played by Anthony Hopkins) who is brilliant psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer. He helps Clarice in profiling the serial killer.

Forensic Anthropology, Clyde Snow and Liliana Pereyra.

From 1974 to 1983 the military government in Argentina along with rightists decided to get rid of leftist intellectuals, politicians and anyone whom they thought was socialist. Thousands of people were tortured and killed. Their relatives could not trace them. They just disappeared (called Desaparecidos). The period is called as “Dirty War”.


Liliana Pereyra was a 21 years old law student,  who disappeared sometime in October 1977. Her mother Coqui Pereyra was unable to trace her. Later she came to know that her daughter died in police shoot out and buried in a cemetery called El Praque.



In 1985, American forensic anthropologist Clyde Snow was called by Argentinian Government to identify bodies of victims of dirty war, which were buried in various places.

Coqui Pereyra asked Snow to examine skeleton which she believed was of her daughter Liliana Pereyra. Snow went through Liliana’s dental and medical records and proved that skeleton was of Liliana.

Snow also proved that she was killed by shot gun from a very close range, the weapon was similar to one used by Argentine army personnel and she was pregnant during the time she was killed. Examination of pelvis showed that she had given birth to a child, because remains of child were not found along with her remains.

During trial of military junta, it was found that Liliana was not killed in police shootout. She was kidnapped by military and tortured by them at Naval Mechanics School; it was during torture she gave birth to a child. The child was later adopted by some army personnel. Post child birth she was shot dead and buried in cemetery.

Coqui hopes that one day she will be able to find that child.