Research Centre for Field Archaeology and Forensic Taphonomy

Institute of Materials and Investigative Sciences (IMIS)

We focus on the collection and evaluation of research data in the field and laboratory, using primary data as tools for innovation and social impact. Members of the Centre work across archaeology and forensic science.

Our research in field archaeology and forensic taphonomy involves collaborations with leading national and international organisations. 

Our research

The UCLan Research Centre for Field Archaeology and Forensic Taphonomy works with researchers from across the world. Our expertise is in primary data collection and investigation.

Every year archaeological field research takes place all over the world, particularly in the UK, USA and the Mediterranean. The work that we do has assisted with the identification of human remains in Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, the Philippines and Ukraine. We provide bespoke training for the International Committee of the Red Cross.

We focus on the methodological, pedagogic, and transformative aspects of original primary data as tools for innovative science and social impact. We do collaborative research in archaeology, anthropology, computing, forensic taphonomy, criminalistics, and genetics, working in the areas of Citizenship, Society and Justice.. Our work in archaeology is linked closely to the heritage sector and our work in forensic science is central to the University’s justice agenda.

Current research in field archaeology

Current research in forensic taphonomy

Our forensic taphonomy research is broad in scope. We use the TRACES animal taphonomy facility and the state-of-the-art taphonomy laboratory to investigate the decomposition rate, the identification of VOCs from decomposing remains, the detection of skeletal and decomposing remains on the surface, underwater and underground. Current doctoral projects are focused on elucidation of toxicological information from alternative matrices, and the identification of scavengers and spatial mapping of scavenger-induced distribution of remains. We also undertake research into the recognition and investigation of violations of human rights and wildlife crime.

We actively collaborate with Human Taphonomy Facilities in the USA (Sam Houston State University and Texas State University) to improve the understanding of human decomposition processes. We adopt innovative molecular approaches; the so-called “Forens-OMICS” approach. This research is aimed primarily at improving post-mortem interval estimation methods and age-at-death estimation strategies from decomposed remains. This is gaining notable interest in the field and is becoming recognised worldwide.

Our research aims to improve our understanding of the physical, chemical, biological and microbial processes of animal and human decomposition. This will aid estimations of post-mortem interval, search and recovery, as well as excavation and identification of unknown human remains.

Contact us

There has never been a more vital time for this Centre to be active because global uncertainty strikes at the very heart of belonging and identity. Our research supports consistency and methodological practice in human remains recovery.

To find out more please contact Centre Directors Dr Richard Peterson and Dr Noemi Procopio.