Experimental Approaches to Forensic and Archaeological Investigations (ARC3510)

StaffDr Linda Hurcombe - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value
NQF Level5
Pre-requisitesAt least 45 credits of Forensic Science or Archaeology modules at level 2
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module aims to provide you with a sound grounding in experimental approaches within forensic and archaeological sciences. In particular, the module focusses on actualistic, simulation and reconstruction experiments, both as a method of scientific investigation and an approach to communicating evidence to courts and the wider public. You will gain an understanding of experimental approaches within the context of the philosophy of science and gain skills in sound experimental design. You will gain knowledge of a wide range of case studies through lectures, seminar discussions and practical workshops. Topics will include both long-term and short-term experiments addressing issues such as taphonomic processes, trauma and pathology, use of tools and weapons, site formation processes and methods of presentation through reconstruction. The module provides useful generic skills as well as being particularly useful to you conducting experiments as part of dissertation work, or who are interested in further postgraduate study in experimental archaeology or forensic anthropology.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Understand how experiments can enhance forensic and archaeological investigations
  • 2. Demonstrate skills in archaeological and forensic experimental design
  • 3. Know a wide range of ways in which experiments have been applied with the two disciplines

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Show knowledge of how evidence is created on archaeological sites and crime scenes
  • 5. Understand the importance of clear presentation of evidence to courts and the public

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Engage in critical discussions of complex issues
  • 7. Write clearly and concisely in good English
  • 8. Understand key components of good research design

Syllabus plan

  • The place of experimentation within the philosophy of science and the logic of discovery
  • Exploration of different types of experiments and the history of experimentation in archaeology and forensic science
  • The essentials of good experimental design: materials, protocols, controls, data handling, safety and ethics
  • Taphonomic simulations (including ‘body farm’ type programmes)
  • Experiments relating to trauma, tool use and material culture
  • Experiments to aid the development of evidence recovery in archaeological and forensic contexts
  • Discussion of forensic and archaeological case studies of short-term and long-term experiments
  • Experimental reconstruction in court room and public presentation








Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities33Lecture classes with some discussion; Seminar discussion of case studies
Guided independent study117Practical workshops

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Contribution to class discussionContribution in seminars, as appropriate6Verbal, in class
Contribution to practical workshopsContribution in practical workshops as appropriate 1-5Verbal, in class

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Scientific abstract 30500 words1, 3-7written
Project proposal702000 words1,2,4,5,7,8written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Scientific abstractScientific abstract 500 words1,3-7Referred/deferred period
Project proposalProject proposal 2000 words1,2,4,5,7,8Referred/deferred period

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Key words search

Experiment, Archaeology, Forensic, Reconstruction