Research in Archaeological and Forensic Sciences

Archaeological and Forensic Sciences at Bradford has a long-established reputation as one of the key centres for archaeological research in the UK. Bringing together staff from both Humanities and Science backgrounds within a single centre, we have created a powerful and distinctive research identity which blends cultural archaeology with cutting edge science.

Archaeological and forensic Sciences was in the top 10 for archaeology in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) which assesses the quality of research conducted in all UK Universities. Over one-third of our research was awarded the highest 4* ranking and we were ranked 3rd in the UK for research impact.

Bradford’s field and lab-based projects have a global reach, currently including work in Mediterranean Europe, western Asia, the North Atlantic and South America.

Our research is funded by a wide range of sources, including UK Research Councils, HERA, the European Commission, government agencies like English Heritage and Historic Scotland, major charities such as the Leverhulme Trust and the Gates Foundation, the US National Science Foundation, and a host of others.  Scroll down to find out more about our research groups and projects.

PhD research

Mike Copper tells us about his research in ceramic variation in Neolithic Atlantic Scotland.

Candidates can apply for a self-funded PhD anytime. Current projects are listed on our PhD pages.

Research Areas

4 people dressed in white protective suits inspecting moorland ground

Forensic archaeology and taphonomy

Forensic Archaeology is the application of archaeological techniques to the recovery of buried and concealed evidence for the criminal justice sector. Forensic Taphonomy is the investigation of the decay of bodies and associated materials (e.g. hair and textiles) and is used to inform search, excavation and analytical strategies.

two skulls facing each other

Continuing bonds: archaeology meets end-of-life care

Exploring the use of archaeological case studies in opening up conversations around death and dying in the present.

Man using equipment to scan the walls of a cave

Visualising Heritage

The University of Bradford's Faculty of Archaeological and Forensic Sciences has a long-established reputation in heritage research.

Map of europe in the doggerland period

Europe’s lost frontiers

The only lands on Earth that have not been explored in any depth by science are those that have been lost to the oceans. Global warming at the end of the last Ice Age led to the inundation of vast landscapes that had once been home to thousands of people. These lost lands hold a unique and largely unexplored record of settlement and colonisation linked to climate change over millennia. 

Picture of atlantic coastline

North Atlantic research (NAR)

NAR formalises the research in the North Atlantic region carried out at the University of Bradford since the early 1980s. 

Forensic archaeology and taphonomy

Forensic Archaeology is the application of archaeological techniques to the recovery of buried and concealed evidence for the criminal justice sector. Forensic Taphonomy is the investigation of the decay of bodies and associated materials (e.g. hair and textiles) and is used to inform search, excavation and analytical strategies.

Our activities involve both research and casework. Recent casework includes work for UK police forces (search, excavation of buried bodies, interpretation of decay and preservation of bodies and associated evidential materials). A major excavation and search programme has been conducted for the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains (ICLVR) looking for the bodies of ‘the Disappeared’ from Ireland.

A critical issue in Forensic Science is the regulation of specialist expert witnesses. Staff from the University of Bradford have been instrumental in the development of professional standards for Forensic Archaeology in conjunction with the Forensic Regulator and the Institute for Archaeology (IfA). Rob Janaway is the founding Chair of the IfA Expert Panel and Chair of the Special Interest Group.

4 people dressed in white protective suits inspecting moorland ground

Research areas

  • Taphonomy of inhumation burials
  • Survival of trace evidence (e.g. degradation of hair, fibres and textiles)
  • The effect of lime on cadaveric decay
  • Biodegradation of materials/ soil microbiology
  • Long-term Field Experiments (e.g. experimental earthworks projects – Overton Down/ Wareham)
  • Long-term Laboratory Simulations (e.g. Impact of degradation to bone/ hair on biomolecular analysis (e.g. stable light isotope analysis, toxicology, DNA)
  • Forensic entomology

Further information

You can study an MSc or a Postgraduate Diploma in Forensic Archaeology and Crime Scene Investigation with us. Find out more about this course.

If you want to find out Forensic Archaeology, you can visit the Institute for Archaeologists (Forensic Archaeology Panel).

Continuing bonds: archaeology meets end-of-life care

Continuing Bonds: Exploring the meaning and legacy of death through past and contemporary practice, is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and is an innovative collaborative project between archaeologists and health and social care practitioners, exploring the use of archaeological case studies in opening up conversations around death and dying in the present.

The project is led by Dr Karina Croucher, a Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Bradford, with co-investigators Laura Middleton-Green in the Faculty of Health Studies at the University of Bradford and Christina Faull at LOROS Hospice in Leicester. The project also involves two Post-Doctoral Researchers: one (Lindsey Büster) with an archaeological background and the other, with a specialism in health and social care.

 

two skulls facing each other

Project details

Four themed workshops on: Images of the dead, Ancestors, Age and circumstances of death, and Memorialisation, will present archaeological and ethnographic case studies to health and social care professionals in Bradford and Leicester in each of the two years of the project – the second series being informed by feedback from the first.

The project aims to evaluate (using quantitative and qualitative methods) the value of using archaeology to challenge our modern perceptions of and attitudes towards death and dying, and as a vehicle through which people can begin to discuss their own mortality and their own end-of-life care. Though the workshops are primarily aimed as healthcare practitioners, fringe and spin-off events aimed at the wider public are planned, as is a closing workshop with primary school teachers.

Further details

Email ContinuingBonds@bradford.ac.uk

Twitter: @CBondsStudy; #ContinuingBonds

Continuing bonds blog.  

Continuing Bonds Pinterest account.

Visualising Heritage

We have a long-established reputation in heritage research. Bringing together staff from the Humanities, Social Science, and Natural Science backgrounds, we have created a powerful and distinctive interdisciplinary research identity with major contributions to the fields of landscape and geophysical surveying, human and social identity, and material culture. We aim to advance understanding of heritage by developing new analytical approaches to fundamental research questions, integrating perspectives from the humanities, and sciences and capitalising on the diversity of expertise within our staff group

Our heritage research extends geographically from the North Atlantic to Mediterranean and SE Europe, and the Near East. Chronologically we cover the Palaeolithic to Norse periods. These draw on the full range of scientific expertise at Bradford and represent real integration of humanities and science-based perspectives.

Among the major current projects are:

We are also members of The Heritage Consortium, a consortium of seven universities in Yorkshire and Northumberland supporting PhD training and research in heritage studies.

The School of Archaeological Sciences provides a friendly and supportive environment where academic staff and students work together, work with other universities and institutes, and work with other disciplines. Interdisciplinary research is one of the key ingredients to Bradford’s success. As well as creating a dynamic atmosphere, interdisciplinary cooperation fosters essential transferable skills that help staff and students throughout their careers.

Bradford's main aims are:

  • Use of innovative technology in the identification and study of archaeological sites, deposits, finds, and human remains
  • Study and use of different forms of media as tools for the communication of research
  • Engagement of the public through different forms of media

AHRC Doctoral studentships

The University of Bradford is one of seven universities, which includes Huddersfield, Hull, Leeds Beckett, Northumbria, Sheffield Hallam and Teesside, that has partnered with the Heritage Consortium, to provide AHRC funded doctoral studentships. These studentships focus on many different aspects of heritage, with full support available from the consortium’s involvement with heritage organisations worldwide. This allows students to take part in placements and training, while the universities provide tailored supervision and mentoring. By offering a variety of career development opportunities, the consortium supports students not only throughout, but beyond, their study of heritage.

For more information please contact Dr Randolph Donahue or visit the Heritage Consortium webpage.

Image: Structured light scanning of Pictish symbols in the Sculptor's Cave using Fragmented Heritage scanner.

Man using equipment to scan the walls of a cave

Europe's Lost Frontiers

The only lands on Earth that have not been explored in any depth by science are those that have been lost to the oceans. Global warming at the end of the last Ice Age led to the inundation of vast landscapes that had once been home to thousands of people. These lost lands hold a unique and largely unexplored record of settlement and colonisation linked to climate change over millennia. Amongst the most significant is Doggerland. Occupying much of the North Sea basin between continental Europe and Britain it would have been a heartland of human occupation and central to the process of re-settlement and colonisation of north Western Europe during the Mesolithic and the Neolithic.

Within this submerged landscape lies fragmentary yet valuable evidence for the lifestyles of its inhabitants including the changes resulting from both the encroaching sea and the introduction of Neolithic technologies. This inundated landscape cannot be explored conventionally, however pioneering work by members of this project has led to the rediscovery of Doggerland through the creation of the first detailed topographic maps relating to human occupation in the Early Holocene.

Within the Europe’s Lost Frontiers project, world-leading innovators in the fields of archaeo-geophysics, molecular biology and computer simulation are developing a ground-breaking new paradigm for the study of past environments, ecological change and the transition between hunter gathering societies and farming in north west Europe

Find out more about Europes Lost Frontiers.

Map of europe in the doggerland period

North Atlantic Research

North Atlantic Research (NAR) formalises the research in the North Atlantic region carried out at the University of Bradford since the early 1980s. Currently the team are working on the publication of the Old Scatness/Jarlshof Environs Project, and excavating on Rousay as part of the 'Orkney Gateway to the Atlantic' project.

Visit the NAR Website >>

Picture of atlantic coastline