Forensic archaeology
Archaeology » Archaeology methods » Forensic archaeology

The application of archaeological principles, techniques and methodologies in a legal context is Forensic Archeology. Police and other investigating agencies employ forensic archeologists to help them locate evidence at a crime scene. The archeologists use the skills normally used on archaeological sites to uncover evidences from the past. Forensic Archaeologists locate, excavate and record buried remains. The variety of such sites is humongous and each case by itself is unique with its requirements.

Forensic Archaeology

Forensic Archaeology techniques started about 10 years ago. It is relatively new to both the discipline and to the criminal justice system. It has been well established in Great Britain and certain locations in the United States. Forensic archaeology training is being offered to law enforcement department in Oklahoma. The Riverside County (California) Sheriff's Department has a Forensic Archaeology Department. The world famous FBI department also includes archaeology specialists in their ERTs.

Forensic Archaeology Contains Following Chapter:

Forensic Archaeology

Forensic Archaeology Applications

The archaeologists takes part in locating and excavation of buried remains, recovering human remains, personal effects, weapons, stolen goods, and other potential evidences of the crime scene or accidents. Forensic archaeology has also developed a set of disciplines such as archaeological object conservation. Knowledge regarding the chemical and biological processes involved in the degradation of materials (known as taphonomy) is essential for both forensic archaeology as well as archaeological conservation.

The archaeologist in order to explain the pattern of evidence found studies and gives a figurative prediction about the survival of the buried items. The archaeological conservator studies the same processes to stop the archeologists from damaging the archeological artifacts from its present state since its excavation. Study of the degradation processes of a human body identifies the survival of associated items and trace back evidence (e.g., fingerprints, hairs, DNA, paint flakes, etc.) which are quite useful to law enforcers and other authorities to solve the mystery behind the incident.

Forensic Archaeology methods

They are also known as field archaeologists who implement high degree of skill, knowledge and experience in field craft and other technological methods to locate, recover and interpret buried objects or evidence. The technological methods commonly used are geophysical prospecting, aerial photography, satellite imagery, surveying and excavation.

While dealing with human remains, the traditional disciplines of archaeology also benefit the investigation as well as the study of osteoarchaeology. In United Kingdom, it has lead to the adoption of the study of forensic anthropology. The human skeletal remains are used to determine the age, sex, height, manner of death etc. of an individual.

Techniques from palaeopathology which deals with the study of human skeletal remains to understand the health of individuals from the past, has aided forensic anthropology by allowing the examination of injuries prior to the time of death of a victim and helps to identify individuals from their past medical records.

  • What is Forensic Archaeology?

The application of archaeological methods to forensic – crime scene – work and analysis of data obtained from them in order to solve the mysteries behind the crime scene or accidents is known as Forensic Archeology.

  • How does Forensic Archaeology work within the criminal justice system?

It combines the knowledge of osteology and human remains with archaeological techniques to help recover or locate vital evidence for the investigative team to proceed further with the case. The Archaeologist with certain background knowledge of osteology can provide field guidance on the age, sex, and other physical characteristics of the remains. As an experienced excavator, the Forensic Archaeologist examines the scene to locate and recover artifacts.

  • Is Forensic Archaeology widely accepted?

Forensic Archaeology has indeed been widely accepted all across the world though it has been implemented only for the past 10 years and it is quite new among criminal justice system. It has become very popular in Great Britain and commonly used by the Scotland yard and is also found in several locations of the United States. For example, forensic archaeology training is being offered to law enforcement in Oklahoma, the Riverside County (California) Sheriff's Department has a Forensic Archaeology Department; The Federal Bureau of Investigation also includes archaeology specialists in their ERTs and thus almost everyone across the world uses forensic services to solve mysterious behind cases.

  • What can Forensic Archaeologists do that my team can't do?

Forensic Archeologists are filled with expertise when it comes to digging, excavating, screen and plotting remains. They can offer better judgments and analysis at the crime scene. And they do this for a living and thus do it everyday. Your office probably has relatively few occasions to need to grid, excavate, screen, and plot remains and if you do not have the experts to do the task, not only you might make the case more complicated than what it is but you might also damage the artifacts from the area and in ways hinder the evidence. The archeologists have the training, tools, and equipment just meant for the job. And this saves time as well as funds ensuring that the evidence is maintained intact.

  • Search for Unlocated Crime Scenes

Well organized search teams, proper training of volunteers, comprehensive systematic search techniques approach, and collection of physical evidence.

  • Identification of Grave Locations

Several pedestrian and geophysical techniques are implemented along with trenching or excavation.

  • Scene Assessments

Certain locations and their recoveries require special skills. There is always the need to ensure that maximum amount of information is extracted. And almost at all times the scenarios are pretty hard to asses especially with areas of difficult terrains.

  • Scene Documentation and Mapping

Excavation and investigation always damages the site or the area of investigation during its course. Documentation of the scene is a critical before investigation. Chicora is pretty much capable and uses a wide range of equipments to ensure that the scene is thoroughly recorded.

  • Excavation and Recovery

This process is more complicated than how it sounds. It is not just about putting various things into your bag required for the process. What happened at the scene? Which tools were used to dig the grave? Has the grave been disturbed? What is in the grave fill? Are there samples such as pollen, insects, tool marks etc that ought to be collected for analysis by other experts? These are some of the question that needs to be addressed commonly.

  • Scene Reconstruction

The traditional archaeological methods assist forensic archaeologists to reconstruct the activities at recent crime scenes by looking at both the artifacts and their contexts. The break down of evidence in to modules may provide significant clues to help you solve the mystery.

  • Documentation and Reporting

Ensuring the chain of incidents and artifacts are intact at the crime scene is pretty critical and for this documentation serves its purpose. Chicora does this routinely. The experts can also provide site maps and other graphics for interpretation and analysis.

  • Ability to Work with Other Experts

Solving a crime scene is never an easy task individually. Coexistence and team cooperation is quite necessary for a successful research and for this all experts must cooperate at the crime scene. Chicora's Forensic Archaeologists have the basic essential knowledge and are well trained to work with Forensic Anthropologists, Medical Examiners, Forensic Entomologists, and Arson Investigators.

  • Examination of Cemeteries

Solving mysteries of events at crime scenes involves examination of cemetery remains, assistance in interpreting and analyzing remains, exploring and identifying burial locations, identification of cemetery boundaries, identification of coffin materials and other hardware materials associated with remains.

Books on the Forensic Archaeology :
Forensic archaeology  Forensic archaeology - advances in theory and practice. John Hunter, Margaret Cox - 2005.

This book gives detailed reviews of the recent history of forensic archaeology, examines case studies, pursues newer developments and considers the wider contextual framework.

Human Osteology: In Archaeology and Forensic Science  Human Osteology: In Archaeology and Forensic Science- Margaret Cox, Simon Mays - 2000.
Archaeologies of the contemporary past  Archaeologies of the contemporary past:- Victor Buchli, Gavin Lucas, Margaret Cox - 2001.

Contains the most recent research work from the new field of forensic archeology. It also gives a precise understanding of the experience of modernity and the communities.

Rich Resources over the web on Forensic archaeology
  • Forensic archaeology is the application of archaeological principles, techniques and methodologies in a legal context to solve the mysteries behind archeological areas or crime scenes.

  • How to get into Forensic Archaeology : Do a thorough research and get sufficient background knowledge about the field from several sources. The techniques include search engines, official organizations, university sites, books and journals, libraries and talking to people who has expertise on these subjects.

  • What is Forensic Archaeology? : The application of archaeological methods to forensic – crime scene – work and analysis of data obtained from them in order to solve the mysteries behind the crime scene or accidents is known as Forensic Archeology.

Diciplines by Regional study
  • African Archaeology

    African Archaeology Africa has the longest record of human activity of any part of the world and along with its geographical extent; it contains an enormous archaeological resource. Scholars have studied Egyptology for centuries but archaeologists have only paid serious attention to the rest of the continent in more recent times.
  • American Archaeology

    American Archaeology Archaeology of the Americas is the learning of the archaeology of North America, Central America (or Mesoamerica), South America and the Caribbean, which is to say, the pre-history and Pre-Columbian history of Native American peoples.
  • European archaeology

    European Archaeology In terms of area, Europe is the world's second smallest continent, with an area of 10,400,000 km² (4,000,000 square miles), making it slightly larger than Australia.
  • Medival archaeology

    Medival archaeology The period covers the commotion caused by the fall of the Medival archaeology Roman Empire and cultures such as the Vikings, Saxons and Franks.
  • Near Eastern Archaeology

    Near Eastern Archaeology Near Eastern Archaeology is a wide generalised application, and is divided into further regional sub-branches, the archaeology of modern states in the region or along broad thematic lines.
  • Post Medieval Archaeology

    Post Medieval Archaeology The Post Medieval Archaeology is considered as a bi-annual journal study of the material evidence of European society. This period saw the conversion of medieval to industrial society.
  • Modern Archaeology

    Modern Archaeology In contrast to the antiquarianism of classical archaeology, anthropological archaeology today is concerned with culture history (i.e., the chronology of events and cultural traditions) and the explanation of cultural processes.