Australia, forensics

Forensic Archaeology

Circa October last year I caught wind of the words “forensic archaeologist” for the first time.

Toy skeleton. Image credit: pixels.com

Whew! It’s a unique and exciting combination of words because it’s as if the mystery, adventure and thriller genres from Hollywood all got smashed together into a job title.

Turns out, this job hardly exists anywhere in Australia. Boo! This is also to the lament of Dr. Soren Blau, the archaeologist who runs the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, Melbourne. Here’s a paper she wrote about it.

So we, Down Under, are not exactly swimming in opportunities, but it was fun to explore. I got really into finding old issues of AFAAN (Australian Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology Newsletter), which was published by them.

Below is a copy from 2019 which I found from the inter-webs, which also includes an interview with a gentleman who became a forensic archaeologist when the Australian Special Investigations Unit asked a pathologist to check on some long-dead people, and the pathologist hand-balled it – the result was Emeritus Professor Richard Wright discovered and exhumed from some mass graves in Ukraine c. 1990. You can read the story for yourself below. (Please be warned, there are images of human remains on the newsletter).

I also discovered that there is a podcast called the Forensic Anthropology Companion Podcast, where really smart people who look at the science of determining the cause of death discuss their research. Episodes come up as the first result if you look on Google.

At some universities, students can study archaeology and forensics concurrently.

Perhaps later on they can be employed at places like AFTER, which is short for the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research, in Sydney. I’ve written about funny acronyms before and this one is just splendid.

Here’s a slightly older ABC news article about a discovery they made that apparently we move around a lot just after we die, eeek:

I suppose in a way, it’s a good thing that the job opportunities are about as ubiquitous as bird’s teeth, as the implications are that homicides are on the less frequent side. Still, I bet if such a TV series about such a person in this role was released, a good number of watchers would tune in. I probably would if I had the time (see below)


Other stuff going on:

• Work is bit of a wild ride on a untamed bucking mare in a hailstorm right now – multiple colleagues have caught COVID, multiple computers keep breaking, and I am basically here running damage control. (There’s a strange sort of thrill in managing crises, but wish this didn’t cut into me-time, which includes blogging time.)

• As mentioned in another post, I have been gearing for a science exam. This has involved lots of maths too. I’ve been using search engines to look up equations so much that an unusual page came up – Google literally paused and asked me if I was a bot:

This came up instead of the search results. Next-level nerd status unlocked?

Turns out Alphabet is on the alert for a Westworld-like uprising, who knew?

I hope all you lovely readers are well. How are things? Have you heard of forensic archaeologists before? Or been accused of being a robot? Anyone have recommendations for good crime-related shows?

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13 thoughts on “Forensic Archaeology

  1. The American TV show “Bones” was about an forensic anthropologist – I think. It was a really good show and had lots of cool stuff! I’m a super nerd so – yes I’ve been asked to confirm I’m not a robot…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dr B says:

    I can see you’re “fired up” about a new career/subject, the same happened to me as I studied chemistry and realised I wanted to be an Analytical Chemist which is certainly forensic. If you want a current day role model in this field look up Professor Alice Roberts in the U.K., she’s become a real tv star which began when she was a student archaeologist on Time Team, then with her own tv show with other young female archaeologists called Extreme Archaeology.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This sounds wonderful! I think I have read about Time Team in passing, a stack of people on Reddit really liked it. I looked her up just now – Professor Roberts has contributed so much, how amazing!

      Organic chemistry questions are some of the ones I’m enjoying answering the most these last couple of weeks 😄

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ooh yes, they list “forensic archaeology” as their expertise so one would think they do.

      Do you remember much of that interview or project? That must have been super fascinating.

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      • Yes.. I was working as an ABC news journalist and they were working on the famous Perth Claremont murders..you can look it up on the web. I recall they said police were only just starting to use them, and a lot of useful material had been accidentally destroyed when the first girl was found because police then didn’t know what the uwa people analysed.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Goodness I just read into the murders, quite surprised at the real recentness of the conviction.

        Thanks Therese! I was thinking earlier I should have expanded a little more on archaeologists being less likely to destroy evidence than usual members of the police force. It’s really cool that you interviewed for ABC.

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  3. One of the “claims to fame” of the area I had to leave is The Body Farm at the University of Tennessee. The people who founded it have written several books under the pseudonym Jefferson Bass. I’ve not read any of them but I daresay you might find them interesting and possibly enlightening.

    Liked by 1 person

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