A women wearing laboratory over-clothes holds up a human skull
Bogota, Colombia. The Instituto Nacional de Medicina Legal y Ciencias Forenses is responsible for the forensic identification of human remains. The ICRC actively support these efforts. (Photographer Christoph von Toggenburg)

What have you learned so far?

This week has introduced you to some of the challenges that we face when applying forensic archaeology and anthropology in the real world. You will now have a much better understanding of the following:

a) Forensic archaeology and anthropology are not simply a series of scientific methods. The context of the bodies is crucial to interpretation and analysis, and each context presents a unique set of challenges.

b) Forensic work takes place within complex political situations and there can be external pressure which tries to constrain activities. However, forensic archaeologists and anthropologists need to work impartially and collaboratively, and engage with the latest research and technical developments.

We have discussed:

  • The challenges associated with burned bodies and commingled graves.

  • How new methods are being developed to allow us to identify the dead in these challenging contexts.

  • Some current examples from around the world of where forensic archaeologists and anthropologists are having a positive impact.

The Course Overall

This brings us to the end of the course. We’ve provided you with an introduction to the subjects of forensic archaeology and anthropology, have discussed what happens to the body after death and burial, the processes of locating and excavating bodies, and analysing them in the laboratory using a range of different techniques. We have also included the latest research in the course activities, whilst also keeping the content accessible for all.

We hope that you’ve found it to be an engaging learning experience and that your knowledge of forensic archaeology and anthropology has been greatly improved. We’d love to hear some feedback from you. Whether you’re a student, an interested party, a forensic practitioner, or thinking of pursing a career in forensic science, please let us know how you found the course and any impact that it’s had on your knowledge, understanding, or career path. If you are a forensic practitioner and have gained additional knowledge from the course that has helped your practice then please also let us know. Additionally, we’re happy to hear feedback regarding any improvements to the course. Please leave comments in the section below.

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This article is from the free online course:

Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology

Durham University