Tag Archives: Forensic Science

Forensic Sciences in Archaeology

Dr Williams has a background in forensic anthropology. She has a PhD in Forensic Anthropology from Sheffield University and joined Cranfield University at the Shrivenham Campus in 2004 as a post doctorial researcher working on the determination of age at death from bone for forensic purposes and in 2006 became a Lecturer in Forensic Anthropology. She has worked for West Yorkshire Police as a forensic analyst.

Dr Williams explained that improvements in DNA reconstruction can be retrospectively applied and forensic technology development can be applied to archaeology, helping to identify cause and date of death and can also be used for facial reconstruction imaging. Anna then went on to describe and show us slides of various sites and finds that had been identified using forensic science.

Her first case was from Prof. Martin Biddle’s excavations of Repton and Anna was allowed to identify the cause of the death of one of the Vikings found there, he had been wounded in the femur with a sword. Lindow Man, the bog body in Wilmslow was very well preserved, he had many injuries, each of which could have caused his death separately and it was therefore thought there may have been a ritualized killing.

At the Battle of Towton, during the Wars of the Roses, 28,000 people died in the 1461 war and in 1996 a mass grave was excavated and forensic techniques were able to identify and separate all the bones. She advised us that the bones showed strenuous exertion whilst growing and it was assumed this meant the men were trained from an early age for battle. Before 1949 it was not so easy to identify dates, radio carbon dating was very important as was dendrochronology and mass spectometry. Bone fluorescence can be used to date bones, but there are other factors that affect this.

Dr Williams then went on to tell us about some of the investigative work undertaken on Tutenkamun. In 1968 the body was radiographed, in 2005 it was CT scanned, when over 1700 images were taken. Anthropological analysis showed he was 18 – 20 years old, 170cm tall. Bone fractures are thought to have occurred after death and not the cause of death.

Dr Williams concluded that archaeology will continue to benefit from scientific advances made in the forensic area.

Thanks to Anna for her very interesting talk.