Thesis Projects in Forensic Taphonomy

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James T. Pokines


Given the recent growth in the field, some students in forensic anthropology may find it difficult to devise an affordable, suitable, and ideally publishable thesis topic. Taphonomic projects often can fill this role, as many do not require a large budget, are experimental in nature, thus giving students greater control over the data that they will collect, and on topics that have not received large amounts of research. The author presents a list of possible topics primarily in the field of forensic taphonomy and aimed at the MS/MA thesis level, although some proposed projects are larger or could be adapted for a PhD dissertation. The topics include taphonomic effects associated with carnivores, rodents, birds, reptiles, and plants and subaerial weathering; marine environments; thermal alteration; ritual and anatomical activity; cemetery and non-cemetery burials; bone detection; decomposition; and taphonomic procedures. The suggested topics also include factors that may make them more difficult to explore and information on which venues may be the most appropriate. The author hopes to promote taphonomic research in multiple subfields and encourage graduate students to pursue publication of their results.

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