Forensic archaeologists and anthropologists apply their knowledge to help with modern investigations at crime scenes, disaster sites-even modern cemeteries.
Jobs in archaeology don’t just involve investigating the past. The skills acquired from studying archaeology and working in the field can also be applied to the modern world.
Forensic archaeology is a specialised area which applies archaeological methods to crime scenes, disaster sites-even modern cemeteries. It can help investigators discover, map and analysis a site. In conjunction with forensic anthropology, it can also help identify human remains through bone analysis and reconstruction. Jobs however are limited and specialist qualifications required.
What is Forensic Archaeology?
Forensic archaeologists are experts trained in fieldwork and analysis who work with various agencies to uncover information about events and sites in the modern world. The skills they use to investigate these modern phenomena are just the same as those applied to the past.
Archaeological surveying techniques such as aerial photography and geophysics can be used to find the locations of incidents. Forensic archaeologists also excavate and record as well as analysis and conserve finds.
As the name suggests, forensic archaeologists primarily work with the police investigating crime scenes. Forensic archaeology is often used in the investigation of murder sites or burials of murder victims and mass graves. But it is also used at the sites of mass disasters such as crashes and natural disasters, to help discover what happened and identify individuals.
Forensic Anthropology and Osteology
Human remains are specifically dealt with by forensic anthropologists who use bone analysis or osteology to identify a victim’s race, sex, age and build as well as how they may have died.
Often forensic anthropologists also help identify specific individuals. One of the ways they do this is by using reconstructing facial features from skulls.
Forensic Archaeology Jobs
Forensic archaeology is a relatively new field worldwide. It is gradually becoming well established but job opportunities are still limited. According to the University of Kent’s Forensic Science Careers Page , in the UK there are about 5000 people working in the forensic science, with 200 new recruits taken up each year. Forensic archaeology represents only a portion of this.
For those interested in a career in forensic archaeology, there are various avenues to explore. Forensic archaeologists are employed by universities and museums as well as police forces. Many US government departments such as the US National Park Service, the FBI and the army also use archaeologists to help with their forensic investigations.
Specialised agencies have also been set up, such as the Chicora Foundation , which has mapped and investigating contemporary cemeteries in South Carolina.
Forensic Archaeology Courses
If you are interested in a career as a forensic archaeologist, the study of science at school is a must followed by an appropriate science based degree at university.
Experience in archaeological fieldwork is essential so an MSc in archaeology would be appropriate although some universities in the US and Britain offer degrees specifically in forensic archaeology. Forensic archaeology.org gives a list of educational institutes in Britain who offer forensic archaeology courses. The American Board of Forensic Anthropology also provides careers information for those in the US.
Whatever your first degree, a postgraduate qualification is essential. An MSc is the minimal requirement but any potential forensic archaeologist would be well advised to study for a PhD to give themselves the best chance in a limited job market.