The people behind the ashes. Interaction between bioarchaeological and geochemical research for the analysis of burned human remains from forensic and archaeological contexts.

Project Details


Burned human remains are often encountered in various fields. While forensic scientists deal with fire victims, archaeologists study past communities who practiced cremations as a funerary rite. During burning, bones are subject to high temperatures (up to 1000 °C), resulting in changes in chemical composition and morphological alterations on macroscopic and microscopic levels. These changes, along with fragmentation, make obtaining demographic data challenging. Sex and age estimation and identification of pathological conditions are essential to criminal investigators to help identifying
fire victims and are important for the reconstruction of demographic profiles of past populations.
This research focuses on combining and developing bioarcheological and geochemical sex and age estimation methods that will provide fields of archaeology and forensic biology with novel and suitable tools to identify burned skeletal human remains. Macroscopic assessment, microscopic analysis via histology, tooth cementum annulation, and µCT and the application of geochemical methods
(i.e. isotope analysis) will be performed on modern cremated bone collections of known sex and age. The combination of methods yielding the best results will thereafter be used on Belgian archaeological collections to study past community dynamics and demography. Once tested, this new setup will be useful to a wide range of researchers that deal with identification of burned human remains.
Effective start/end date1/11/1931/10/24


  • Bioarchaeology
  • forensic biology
  • burned human
  • sex
  • age

Flemish discipline codes 2018-2023

  • Geochemistry not elsewhere classified
  • Forensic biology
  • Criminology not elsewhere classified
  • Bioarchaeology


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