What is Forensic Archaeology
Forensic archaeology is a field of forensic science which involves application of archaeological methods in investigation of a crime scene in order to identify evidence and reconstruct crime scene, usually a murder. Forensic archaeologist are employed to excavate and recover human remains, personal items, weapons, etc. as well as eliminate non-related objects. The process of forensic archaeology is very similar to that used by traditional archaeologists when recovering remains from the past.
Fields of Forensic Archaeology
Forensic archaeologists are employed in cases involving buried human remains and buried evidence that is related to crime. But they may also be employed to help resolve civil cases involving buried evidence. The main fields of forensic archaeology include:
Graves and grave sites. Forensic archaeologists are often employed by the police to help locate and excavate graves and grave sites as well as identify evidence related to crime and reconstruct the course of events that took place before the victim’s burial. They most often investigate unsolved crimes, disappearances and information about uncovered graves and grave sites.
Objects related to crime. These can include both personal objects of a victim of crime and objects buried by the perpetrator to hide their involvement in crime. They may involve weapons, tools, various personal objects, etc.
Surface disposal of human remains. Forensic archaeologists are usually called in to help gather evidence in cases of surface disposal of human remains. These include covering the body with tree benches, rubbish, construction materials, etc. Forensic archaeologists remove layer by layer in order to identify evidence and exclude objects that aren’t connected with crime or the victim. When investigating surface body disposals, forensic archaeologists often work with other forensic scientists such as forensic botanists and entomologists.
Mass graves. These are usually commissioned by organisations such as the UN, while the investigation is focused on both recovery of human remains for identification and gathering incriminating evidence for war crimes.
Buried evidence relevant for civil cases. Sometimes forensic archaeologists don’t have to excavate human remains and look for buried evidence related to crimes such as murder. They are sometimes also employed to help locate evidence that is relevant for civil cases such as buried fence lines.
What Problems Forensic Archaeology Helps Resolve
Besides helping locate and excavate human remains, and identify objects relevant for a case, forensic archaeologists also help reconstruct the crime scene and determine the age of the crime scene, similarly to mainstream archaeologists when uncovering the relics of ancient civilisations.