Crimson Publishers Publish With Us Reprints e-Books Video articles

Full Text

Archaeology & Anthropology:Open Access

Exploring the Intersection of Forensic Science Education: Bridging Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology

Meiko Thompson1* and Lisa Mims-Devezin2

1Forensic Science, Southern University, USA

2Lisa Mims-Devezin, Biology, Southern University, USA

*Corresponding author:Meiko Thompson, Forensic Science, Southern University, USA, 6400 Press Drive NSB 373, New Orleans, LA 70126

Submission: July 07, 2023Published: July 21, 2023

DOI: 10.31031/AAOA.2023.04.000617

ISSN: 2577-1949
Volume4 Issue5


Forensic science education is a multidisciplinary field that involves various scientific disciplines. This article focuses on the intersection of forensic anthropology and archaeology within forensic science education. It highlights the importance of incorporating both disciplines to enhance the understanding and application of forensic science. This paper discusses various approaches to bridging the perspectives of forensic anthropology and archaeology to provide a comprehensive educational experience for aspiring forensic scientists. Additionally, it explores the role of interdisciplinary collaboration in facilitating accurate and effective forensic investigations.

Keywords:Forensic science; Education; Forensic anthropology; Forensic archaeology; Comprehensive curriculum


Forensic science education equips individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to contribute to the criminal justice system. With its student-centered methodology and emphasis on critical thinking and reasoning, forensic science education promotes a constructivist inquiry-based learning approach [1] This approach encourages students to ask questions, evaluate evidence, and utilize critical thinking skills to develop explanations for the issues under analysis. Forensic science degree programs offer a solid foundation in science, particularly chemistry and biology; both are essential for forensic scientists. These scientific concepts provide the analytical and critical thinking skills necessary for forensic applications. Programs encompass various disciplines, from the physical to the social sciences, as they aim to establish facts in criminal cases. Chemistry is a cornerstone of most forensic teaching and practice. According to Samarji’s [2] review of forensic science courses offered by higher education institutions worldwide, almost 23 percent of the courses required for the curriculum are administered by Chemistry Departments, indicating the significance of chemistry in forensic science education. Forensic science encompasses a range of scientific disciplines that contribute to the resolution of criminal investigations and the identification of human remains and has evolved to encompass two key disciplines within this field: forensic anthropology and archaeology. These two fields offer a distinct yet interrelated approach to recovering and analyzing evidence and can lead to a more comprehensive understanding of forensic science [3]. However, the connection between these two disciplines within forensic science education must be noticed.


Forensic anthropology is a subfield of forensic science that focuses on identifying and interpreting human skeletal remains in the context of legal investigations [4]. It combines knowledge from various disciplines such as medicine, biology, archaeology, and social and cultural analysis to address questions related to burial patterns, ethnic identity, cause of death, and the circumstances surrounding a person’s demise [5- 8] Forensic anthropology is historically shaped and enriched by its collaboration with archaeology, particularly in excavating and recovering human remains [9]. Since the establishment of forensic anthropology as a discipline, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of an interdisciplinary approach in forensic science education. Archaeology, on the other hand, has played a crucial role in excavating and recovering human remains at burial sites. Archaeologists are trained in the proper methods and techniques for excavating and documenting human remains, ensuring that crucial evidence is preserved [10]. Integrating forensic anthropology and archaeology in education also promotes a biocultural perspective within forensic anthropology. This perspective combines elements of medicine, biology, archaeology, and social and cultural analysis to answer questions related to burial patterns, the ethnic identities of the deceased, and the overall significance of these findings within a cultural context [11]. Archaeological methods, such as stratigraphic excavation and careful documentation of burial contexts, have provided forensic anthropologists with valuable tools for recovering and preserving evidence at crime scenes or burial sites [9]. The amalgamation of forensic anthropology and archaeology in education has led to the development of a comprehensive skill set that enables professionals in these fields to address complex medico-legal investigations and contribute to the advancement of justice.

This approach allows students to explore the similarities and differences in methodologies, theories, and approaches. This integration also fosters a deeper understanding of the significance of forensic anthropology and archaeology in addressing societal issues, such as locating and investigating clandestine burial sites, identifying victims of mass violence and human rights violations, and contributing to the understanding of cultural diversity and identity. Furthermore, incorporating forensic anthropology and archaeology in education promotes interdisciplinary collaboration and enhances students’ ability to work in multidisciplinary teams [11]. This process is crucial as forensic investigations often require input from various fields, including pathology, odontology, and social sciences. Integrating forensic anthropology and archaeology in education also promotes a more comprehensive understanding of the complex nature of human remains. This understanding includes recognizing that human remains are biological entities and bear cultural and social significance [3]. Applying forensic anthropology and archaeology in the educational curriculum equips students with the necessary skills, knowledge, and ethical considerations to oversee human remains with care, respect, and sensitivity. Additionally, integrating forensic anthropology and archaeology into education allows the exploration of ethical considerations inherent in these disciplines. This includes addressing issues such as the repatriation of human remains, the rights and privacy of individuals, and the ethical implications of conducting forensic investigations in culturally sensitive contexts [12]. Moreover, integrating forensic anthropology and archaeology in education prepares students for careers in both fields. It provides them with a comprehensive understanding of the methods and techniques used in forensic investigations, including the excavation, analysis, and interpretation of human remains.

One example of the intersection between forensic anthropology and archaeology is human remains analysis. By combining the expertise of forensic anthropologists and archaeologists, a more comprehensive analysis of human remains can be conducted, leading to a more accurate understanding of the events that transpired [12]. This interdisciplinary approach also extends to the investigation of crime scenes. Archaeological methods can be employed alongside forensic anthropology to search for and recover evidence at outdoor crime scenes. The integration of forensic anthropology and archaeology brings together two distinct fields of study that share common goals in the analysis and interpretation of evidence. Incorporating forensic anthropology and archaeology into educational curricula is essential for developing a comprehensive understanding of the biocultural perspective in forensic investigations. Here are ways that researchers have identified how to bridge the perspectives in Forensic Science Education:

Integration of theoretical frameworks

Integrating their theoretical frameworks to bridge the perspectives of forensic anthropology and archaeology is vital. Incorporating concepts such as taphonomy, skeletal analysis, and site interpretation can give students a broader understanding of forensic investigations [13,14].

Hands-on field experience

Incorporating direct field experiences in forensic anthropology and archaeology can enhance students’ practical skills and knowledge. Field schools and excavation projects allow students to gain firsthand experience in evidence recovery, recording, and analysis [15-17]. This practical component is essential in integrating the perspectives of both disciplines.

Collaborative learning and research

Interdisciplinary coursework: Developing interdisciplinary coursework that combines theories and methodologies from forensic anthropology and archaeology can help students navigate the complexities of forensic investigation [15,18]. Collaborative lectures and workshops provide opportunities for students to interact and learn from experts in both fields.

Interdisciplinary research projects: Encouraging interdisciplinary research projects can further strengthen the connection between forensic anthropology and archaeology. Research projects that address the challenges faced in forensic investigations can foster collaboration and knowledge exchange between students, practitioners, and researchers in both disciplines [19].

Case Studies and practical application

Utilizing case studies:s Incorporating case studies that require the application of forensic anthropology and archaeological techniques can improve students’ problem-solving skills and critical thinking abilities [20]. Analyzing real-life cases enables students to understand the complexities and limitations forensic scientists face.

Mock investigations: Conducting mock investigations incorporating forensic anthropology and archaeology elements can provide firsthand experience. Students can simulate crime scenes, excavate remains, and analyze skeletal remains, allowing them to understand the intricacies of investigating forensic evidence [15,19].

Achievement of integration is through developing specialized courses and programs that emphasize the intersection of forensic anthropology and archaeology. Additionally, practical training in fieldwork techniques and applied laboratory analysis can be incorporated into these educational programs to expose students to the practical skills necessary for forensic anthropology and archaeological investigations [21]. These initiatives can also include collaborations between universities and law enforcement agencies or medical examiners’ offices, providing students with opportunities for internships or research projects that involve real-life and real-world applications in forensic cases. The joining of forensic anthropology and archaeology in forensic science education allows for and enhances the development of wellrounded professionals who can approach crime scene analysis and evidence interpretation from multiple perspectives. By providing students with a comprehensive understanding of both disciplines and the ethical considerations involved in their practice, educational initiatives can prepare future professionals to approach their work with sensitivity, respect, and a multidisciplinary perspective engrained in integrity. These considerations include treating human remains with respect and dignity, the importance of informed consent when working with ancestral or Indigenous communities and considering the potential impacts of investigations on cultural heritage.

This integration can lead to more accurate and comprehensive analyses, enhanced collaboration between various stakeholders, and better responses to mass fatality incidents and human rights violations. Overall, the intersection of forensic anthropology and archaeology in education facilitates a cohesive approach to medicolegal investigations involving human remains. By combining these areas of expertise, students are better equipped to address forensic investigations’ complex and multifaceted nature. This interdisciplinary approach enhances their analytical skills and fosters collaboration and communication among professionals from diverse backgrounds [22]. This integration in educational programs enables students to develop critical thinking skills and a comprehensive approach to forensic investigations. Students develop a broader range of skills and knowledge essential for addressing forensic problems that are complex in nature. By combining the methodologies and techniques of forensic anthropology and archaeology, students can better understand how historical context and archaeological principles play a crucial role in analyzing human skeletal remains and the circumstances surrounding death. They learn to consider the anatomical and biological aspects of human skeletal remains and the environmental, cultural, and historical contexts in which they were found.


Integrating forensic anthropology and archaeology in forensic science education allows students to understand better the biocultural perspective necessary for addressing questions regarding burial patterns, the ethnic identity of the deceased, and other related issues. By incorporating both forensic anthropology and archaeology into the forensic science curricula, students can develop a multifaceted understanding of the complexities of forensic investigations and develop critical thinking skills that incorporate medical, biological, archaeological, and cultural analysis. This interdisciplinary approach enables students to explore the significance of burial patterns and ethnic identity in forensic investigations while also considering the social and cultural factors that may influence the interpretation of human remains while enhancing the students’ analytical and interpretive skills and preparing them to collaborate effectively with professionals from different disciplines in the field of forensic science. Therefore, it is essential to bridge the perspectives of forensic anthropology and archaeology in education, acknowledging each discipline’s distinct contributions to the field.

Incorporating forensic anthropology and archaeology in education also addresses the limitations and challenges that arise when researchers, faculty, and students only consider one discipline. For example, biological anthropologists have developed specialized knowledge and techniques for analyzing human skeletal remains, such as estimating age at death, sex determination, and identifying trauma or pathology [7,8]. Archaeologists, conversely, possess expertise in site surveying, excavation methods, and contextual analysis. Furthermore, including archaeological methods in forensic science education fosters a greater appreciation for the value of preserving and documenting contextual information during an excavation. Students learn the importance of properly recording and photographing the scene, mapping the location of remains and associated artifacts, and conducting systematic excavation techniques. This emphasis on proper recovery and documentation protocols ensures the integrity of the evidence throughout the investigation process. By incorporating forensic anthropology and archaeology in educational programs, students gain a comprehensive understanding of the interconnectedness between these disciplines and their significant role in forensic investigations, ultimately enhancing the overall infrastructure of the curricula and student experiences.


We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the following individuals and organizations for their contributions to this research and manuscript: We acknowledge the financial support provided by Title III for the Enhancing the Forensic Science Program for Successful Student Outcomes and Effective Academic Results under The Future Act Program. This support was instrumental in carrying out the research and analysis presented in this paper. We extend our appreciation to Blair Scott of Grambling State University for their valuable assistance in data collection, analysis, and interpretation. Their expertise and dedication greatly enhanced the quality of this research. We acknowledge the contributions of all individuals mentioned above. However, any errors or omissions are entirely our own.

Conflict of Interest

There are no known conflicts of interest.


  1. Roux C, Bucht R, Crispino F, De Forest P, Lennard C, et al. (2022) The Sydney declaration-revisiting the essence of forensic science through its fundamental principles. Forensic Sci Int 332: 111182.
  2. Samarji AN (2010) Mapping the complexity of forensic science: implications for forensic science education. Ph.D. thesis, Victoria University, pp. 1-542.
  3. Cabo L, Dirkmaat D (2015) Forensic archaeology in the United States. In: Groen WJM, Márquez-Grant N, Janaway RC (Eds.), Forensic archaeology: A global perspective. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd New Jersey, USA, pp. 255-270.
  4. Komar DA, Buikstra JE (2008) Forensic anthropology: Contemporary theory and practice. Oxford University Press, New York, USA, p. 362.
  5. Boyd C, Boyd DC (2011) Theory and the scientific basis for forensic anthropology. J Forensic Sci 56(6): 1407-1415.
  6. Joon V, Rohatgi DR (2022) Sex determination by pelvis: A mini literature review. IJRASET 10(10): 1008-1017.
  7. Krishan K, Chatterjee PM, Kanchan T, Kaur S, Baryah N, et al. (2016) A review of sex estimation techniques during examination of skeletal remains in forensic anthropology casework. Forensic Sci Int 261: 165.e1-165.e8.
  8. White TD, Folkens PA (2005) The Human Bone Manual. 1st (Edn), Academic Press publications, Elsevier, London, UK, p. 448.
  9. Tasker V (2017) Skeletal evidence of torture: How can the past inform the present? The Human Voyage: Undergraduate Research in Biological Anthropology 1: 87-96.
  10. Crist TAJ (2016) Bad to the bone? Historical archaeologists in the practice of forensic science. Hist Arch 35: 39-56.
  11. Dirkmaat DC, Cabo LL, Ousley SD, Symes SA (2008) New perspectives in forensic anthropology. Am J Phys Anthropol 137(S47): 33-52.
  12. Christensen AM, Passalacqua NV, Bartelink EJ (2014) Forensic anthropology: Current methods and practice. 1st (edn), Academic Press, USA, p. 464.
  13. In: Haglund WD, Sorg MH (Eds.), (2001) Advances in forensic taphonomy: Method, theory, and archaeological perspectives. CRC Press, Florida, USA. p. 544.
  14. In: Reichs KJ (Ed.), (1998) Forensic osteology: Advances in identifying human remains. 2nd (Edn), Charles C Thomas Publisher, Illinois, USA, p. 584.
  15. Jones A (2022) Archaeology for a new generation: Exploring education and intersectionality. Archaeologies 18(1): 287-309.
  16. Kolpan KE, Passalacqua NV (2023) Forensic archeology as a high-impact practice. J Forensic Sci 68(1): 233-241.
  17. Pinto D, Pierce ML, Wiersema (2020) A model for forensic anthropology training. Forensic Anthropology 3(2): 120-131.
  18. Passalacqua N, Pilloud M (2020) Education and training in forensic anthropology. Forensic Anthropology 3(2): 91-96.
  19. Ubelaker DH (2021) Research integrity in forensic anthropology. Forensic Sci Res 6(4): 285-291.
  20. Blau S, Ubelaker D (2016) Handbook of forensic anthropology and archaeology. 2nd (Edn), Routledge, New York, USA, p. 738.
  21. Franklin D, Marks M (2021) The professional practice of forensic anthropology: Contemporary developments and cross‐disciplinary applications. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Forensic Science 4(1): 1-17.
  22. Işcan YM (1998) Progress in forensic anthropology: The 20th Forensic Sci Int 98(1-2): 1-8.

© 2023 Meiko Thompson. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and build upon your work non-commercially.