Presentation of book on the development of forensic archaeology

Forensic archaeology has developed rapidly in Europe since the 1980s. Experts perform this kind of investigation in every European country in their own specific way. Forensic archaeologist Mike Groen, from the Netherlands Forensic Institute, is one of the editors of the book entitled ‘Forensic Archaeology: A Global Perspective’, which covers all these different methods.

The book will be presented at the NFI on Thursday 2 April. At that time the first copy of the book will be issued to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Mike Groen will present a copy of the book to Herman von Hebel, who is head of the court registry at the ICC.

Forensic archaeology

Two forensic archaeologists are employed at the NFI. Their work entails using material remains to try and reconstruct the past at a crime scene. The forensic archaeologists are closely involved in excavating, and searching for, fragmented or buried bodies and in dating bone material.

“The methods used in Europe vary hugely. The experts' backgrounds also vary. In the Netherlands, archaeologists have started specialising in forensics. In other countries, the specialists may originally have been police officers”, Groen explains.

Desire for more cooperation

Forensic archaeology has been developing since the 1970s. “The methods were refined in South America during excavations of mass graves. Specialist forensic archaeology first started playing a role in Europe at the end of the 1980s and has been developing and spreading ever since.”

In 2012 the NFI organised a meeting at which forensic archaeologists from all over Europe expressed a desire to cooperate more closely. After all, crime does not stop at a country's borders. Evidence obtained in Germany, for example, has to stand up in a Dutch court. “If you want to work more closely together, you have to be able to let each other know how things work in the various European countries. It was then that the idea for a book came about.”

Mass graves and repatriation

The book discusses the various forensic archaeological contexts based on investigations that actually happened. The book therefore covers the investigation into mass graves in former Yugoslavia and the repatriation of American soldiers from the Korean War, among other case examples.


Forensic Archaeology: A Global Perspective (616 pages) is entirely in English and can be ordered from publisher Wiley Blackwell.