Institute of Archaeology

First for Archaeology in UK 2015

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Course description


The role of the forensic archaeologist is explored and emphasis given to the essential theoretical and practical archaeological skills required when attending crime scenes, in order to properly search for and recover human remains. The course introduces students to a wide range of crime and mass casualty situations and the techniques utilized in order to process the scene. These techniques are being used in modern forensic investigation but are not available to the Police and legal profession through the Forensic Science Service laboratories. A valuable component of this course is instruction on being an expert witness in a court of law.

Procedures adopted at the scene by both law enforcement authorities and forensic specialists are discussed and how the forensic archaeologist must work within a multidisciplinary team.

The course culminates in the simulation of a serious crime and the application of the forensic archaeological techniques learned throughout the course. Afterwards, the student will write a witness statement based on the search and recovery activities conducted during the field trip, having the opportunity to use the newly acquired skills to produce evidence that can stand up in court. .

A valuable component of this course is instruction on being an expert witness in a court of law.

Aims of the course

  • To introduce students to the wide range of crime scenes and mass disasters where Forensic Archaeology is required.
  • To provide students with a comprehensive background in the function and role of archaeological skills in forensic investigation.
  • To outline various disciplines and techniques that has been routinely employed in the archaeological context but has only recently been used as forensic tools in Britain and worldwide.
  • To provide the student with the grounding in how to be an effective expert witness in a court of law.


  • On completion of the course the student should:
  • Fully understand the varied role of the forensic archaeologist
  • Have an overview of major crime scene organisation
  • Have an overview of major mass disaster management
  • Recognise when their skills could assist with crime scene investigation and be able to offer assistance or advice to the investigating team.
  • Be able to work effectively within the criminal justice system
  • Be familiar with court procedure and protocol, resulting in an effective expert witness.

Teaching Methods

Teaching the core course is accomplished by a combination of formal lectures, as well as by discussion and some practical sessions. Each teaching session focuses on a particular topicand has an associated reading list. The course culminates with the participation in a mock crime scene.

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