Forensic and archaeological investigations of human rights violations are socially and politically sensitive. They are influenced by the principle of psychic unity and by ideas of cultural relativism. Investigations of clandestine graves are carried out by interdisciplinary teams working with local communities, national institutions and international agencies. Scholars focus on the detection of graves and the recovery of victims of crimes. Understanding how and when a grave was created takes a secondary position in these scenarios. The present study draws from these insights and argues that reconceptualising forensic and archaeological investigations in terms of concerns of local communities is a way to understand their changing relations with national governments and international organizations.