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Forensic archaeology


Admission requirements

BA or BSc degree in Archaeology.


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

The practical part is a hands-on excavation exercise that aims to provide the participants a good insight into the application of forensic archaeological theories and methods. The excavation exercise is a collaborative effort of a group of 4 participants.

After the excavation, participants will write a forensic excavation report, according to the guidelines of the Netherlands Forensic Institute. The written report will be presented and defended by the participants before the entire group. Report writing and oral presentation is a collaborative effort of 2 participants.


  • Week 1: lecture introduction to criminal law and the role of the forensic expert (guest lecturer from the Public Prosecutor’s Department)

  • Week 2: lecture introduction to criminalistics (prof. dr. C.E.H. Berger, Faculty of Law)

  • Week 3: lecture criminalistics and introduction to criminology (prof. dr. C.E.H. Berger, Faculty of Law/guest lecturer from the Faculty of Law)

  • Week 4: lecture introduction to human taphonomy (drs. W.J. Groen)

  • Week 5: lecture introduction to forensic archaeology (drs. ing. R. de Leeuwe, NFI)

  • Week 6 (3 May): 1 whole day of excavation practical (drs. W.J. Groen and drs. ing. R. de Leeuwe, NFI)

  • Week 8 (17 May): 3 × 45 min PowerPoint presentations of the excavation results (drs. W.J. Groen)

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 context. Additionally, the participants will obtain:

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

  • ability to critically assess current research methods in forensic archaeology;

  • insight in the applicability of forensic archaeology in the medico-legal 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 time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Practical.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:
23 hours in total, excluding self-tuition and final assignment:

  • 5 × 2 hours of lectures (0,5 ects);

  • Excavation practical (0,5 ects);

  • Reading list (2,5 ects);

  • Excavation report (1 ects);

  • Presentation (0,5 ects).

Assessment method

  • Participation in discussion + practical (20%);

  • Written excavation report (50%);

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

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

Reading list

Titles will be provided before the start of the course.


Registration for the course is not necessary, registration for the exam is mandatory. For instructions, see the Registration in uSis page.

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.