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Forensic archaeology


Admission requirements

  • BA or BSc degree in Archaeology (also a requirement for Study Abroard/Exchange student and Contract students).

  • Practical experience in archaeological excavations.


Forensic archaeology is an archaeological discipline that uses archaeological knowledge to answer medico-legal and forensic questions.
The course consists of 10 lectures followed by a full-day practical session. The lectures give you a broad introduction to Dutch criminal law, criminalistics, criminology, human taphonomy and forensic archaeology. You will also learn how these disciplines are integrated within the Dutch medico-legal and forensic framework.

The practical is a hands-on excavation exercise that aims to provide a good insight into the application of forensic archaeological theories and methods. The excavation exercise is a collaborative effort of a group of four participants.
After the excavation you will write a forensic excavation report, accordingly to the guidelines of the Netherlands Forensic Institute. The written report will be presented and defended by the participants before the whole class. Report writing and oral presentation is a collaborative effort of two participants.

Course objectives

The primary goal of the course is to learn how to excavate a clandestine grave and how to report the evidence (in a report and orally) within a medico-legal and forensic context. Additionally, the participants will obtain:

  • basic knowledge of and insight into Dutch criminal law, criminalistics, criminology, human taphonomy and forensic archaeology;

  • critical assessment of current research methods in forensic archaeology;

  • insight in the applicability of forensic archaeology in the medico-legal and forensic setting;

  • ability to formulate well-structured clear arguments in report writing and oral presentation, including the use of a criminalistic approach.


Course schedule details can be found in the MA and MSc time schedule.

The precise schedule will also be published on BlackBoard.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Practical.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 5x2 hours of lectures+ practical excavation techniques (1.5 ec);

  • 250 pages of literature (2 ec);

  • Excavation report of c. 2,000 words (1 ec);

  • Presentation (0,5 ec).

Assessment method

  • Participation in discussion and during the practical (20%);

  • Excavation report (50%);

  • Oral presentation of the excavation results (30%).

Compensation between the individual grades is allowed.

A retake is only possible for the excavation report and only if all requirements, including attendance, have been met.

All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the MA and MSc examination schedule.

Reading list

Titles will be provided on BlackBoard before the start of the course.


Registration for the course or the exam is not required.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.

Registration ‘Contractonderwijs’

All information (costs, registration, entry requirements, etc.) for those who are interested in taking this course as a Contractstudent is on the Contractonderwijs Archeologie webpage (in Dutch).


For more information about this course, please contact drs. W.J. Groen.


  • Compulsory attendance.

  • The course is limited to 20 participants to be selected on the basis of excavation experience and a short motivation letter (750 words);

  • The course is a joint venture between the Faculties of Archaeology and Law, and the forensic archaeologists of the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI).