PACEA — De la Préhistoire à l'Actuel : Culture, Environnement et Anthropologie.

PACEA — De la Préhistoire à l’Actuel : Culture, Environnement et Anthropologie. UMR 5199, Université de Bordeaux, CNRS.

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Statut : Post-Doctorant - PACEA

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Research background / Thèmes de recherche

Eline Schotsmans is a post-doctoral research fellow (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Global - Horizon 2020) at both the University of Bordeaux in France and the University of Wollongong in Australia. Her research is focused on funerary practices and burial taphonomy and lies at the interface between archaeo-anthropology and forensic sciences.

Since her PhD research Eline is looking into funerary practices that alter decomposition rates such as plaster burials, natural desiccation (e.g mummification) or decay acceleration. She is interested in the transition from soft tissue to bone on a macroscopic and microscopic level and its taphonomic effects on and from the depositional environment. In addition, she analyses inorganic burial inclusions, present in burials as the result of diagenetic processes or funeary practices (e.g. lime, gypsum).

As an early career researcher, she has studied and worked in Belgium (Free University Brussels), the United Kingdom (University of Bradford), France (Université de Bordeaux) and Australia (University of Wollongong). For each of these positions she has won several prestigious grants and awards such as from the Arts and Humanities Research Council in the UK, the Initiative d’Excellence in France and the EU Horizon 2020 Marie Curie Fellowship between Australia and France. Working in several countries helped to broaden her archaeo-anthropological perspective in both a theoretical and empirical way.

Eline’s interdisciplinary approach brings a set of skills in archaeology, anthropology, archaeometry, soil science, microbiology and forensic science. Apart from her expertise in archaeology, Eline has a wide range of forensic experience. She collaborated with DVI Belgium (Disaster Victim Identification) and different police forces in the UK. In 2012 she travelled to Burundi to join a team of forensic experts from the University of Leuven (KUL) and DVI Belgium searching for the remains of the last Burundian King assassinated in 1972. She was also deployed by Kenyon International Emergency Services to five aircraft accidents and one terrorist attack.

Eline contributed as teaching assistant to several modules at the University of Bradford and is a guest lecturer at the University of Wollongong and the University of Technology Sydney. She is also an honorary fellow at the University of Bradford, UK.

Current Projects / Recherches actuelles

**Revisiting funerary practices : A methodological approach to the study of funerary sequences and social organisation in the Neolithic Near East, integrating forensic experiments in archaeo-anthropology (ArchFarm)

This 3 Year Marie Curie Fellowship project from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (2019-2021) to Eline Schotsmans aims to expand the methodological principles of funerary archaeology and apply this novel approach to interpret Neolithic Near Eastern burials.

Funerary practices provide a valuable insight into social organisation and ideology of past societies. A major deficiency is that the archaeological record only shows the final deposition of human remains. Funerary practices are not often considered as a dynamic process that consists of several stages over a length of time. In addition, a confident interpretation of funerary treatment before deposition is currently very difficult due to the lack of experimental research. Certain methods are applied to provide interpretations of funerary treatments, but have never been verified. In addition, during archaeological excavations, the burial environment and human remains are too often studied separately. The study of both human remains and their depositional context should be integrated to enhance understanding and interpretation of funerary contexts and thus the behaviour of ancient populations (archaeothanatology). ArchFarm is an interdisciplinary project with a wider relevance and contemporary impact. It integrates forensic science, anthropology, archaeology, taphonomy, ethnology, histology, soil science, decay chemistry and entomology.

The University of Wollongong is the host institution for this Marie Curie Fellowship. The Centre of Archaeological Science (CAS) at UOW is the first archaeological department connected to a Body Farm : the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER) aiming to combine archaeological questions with forensic science.

In order to reconstruct the sequence of funerary actions, Eline developed a protocol for the identification of pre-depositional treatment such as different forms of (former) mummification (desiccation, smoking) and colourant applications. Controlled and repetitive experiments of human body decay are being conducted at the Australian AFTER Body Farm. The new methods are applied to Neolithic Near Eastern burials which are known for body part manipulations such as skull removal. The results will be combined with ethnological research to increase our understanding of social choices and ideology behind certain funerary actions.

ArchFarm is an interdisciplinary study that will create methodological novelties relevant to several periods. Based on a combination of archaeo-anthropology, forensic science and ethno-archaeology, this study will produce a more holistic narrative of funerary practices.

Research Areas / Domaines d’expertise

  • Funerary practices and archaeo-anthropology
  • Taphonomic processes and biodegradation
  • Altered decomposition rates
  • Soft tissue and bone histology (histotaphonomy)
  • Soil analysis, microbiology
  • Analytical science in archaeology : SEM, Raman spectroscopy, FTIR, XRD, GC-MS
  • Mass disasters and mass disaster management

Book publication / Ouvrage

Schotsmans E.M.J., Marquez-Grant N. & Forbes S.L. (2017) Taphonomy of Human Remains : Forensic Analysis of the Dead and the Depositional Environment, Wiley : Chichester.

Selected publications / Choix d’articles

Schotsmans E.M.J, Toksoy-Köksal F., Brettell R.C., Bessou M., Corbineau R., Lingle A.M., Castex D., Knüsel C.J., Wilson A.S., Bouquin D., Blanchard P., Becker K. & Chapoulie R. (2019) ‘Not all that is white is lime’ – White substances from archaeological burial contexts : analyses and interpretations, Archaeometry 61 : 809-827.

Schotsmans E.M.J, Van de Voorde W. & Forbes S. (2019). Time since death estimation in the advanced stages of decomposition. In Hayman J. & Oxenham M. (eds.), Current research and future trends in the estimation o the time since death., Elsevier Academic Press.

Schotsmans E.M.J., Georges-Zimmermann P., Coulombeix A. & Groen W.J.M. (2019) Forensic Archaeology in Europe. In M. Vivas (ed.) (Re)lecture Archéologique de la Justice en Europe Médiéval et Moderne. Ausonius Scripta Mediaevalia 35, Bordeaux : 343-364.

Schotsmans E.M.J., Haddow S.D., Pilloud M.A., Milella M., Glencross B., Betz B.J. & Knüsel C.J., Manipulation of the dead : exploring delayed burial practices at Neolithic Çatalhöyük. In M.A. Judd & Gregoricka L (2017) Foreign Affairs : Bioarchaeological Approaches to Ethnicity, Identity and Interaction in the MENA Region, AAPA Symposium.

Schotsmans E.M.J., García-Rubio A., Edwards H.G.M., Munshi T., Wilson A.S. & Rios L. (2017) Analysing and interpreting lime burials from the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) : a case study from La Carcavilla cemetery, Journal of Forensic Sciences 62 : 498-510.

Schotsmans E.M.J., Brettell R., Becker K., Chapoulie R. & Castex D. (2017) L’étude des matières blanches dans des sépultures : intérêt d’une démarche scientifique raisonnée. In S. de Larminat, R. Corbineau, A. Corrochano, Y. Gleize & J. Soulat (eds.) Rencontre autour de nouvelles approches de l’archéologie funéraire, Actes de la 6e Rencontre du Groupe d’anthropologie et d’archéologie funéraire, 4-5 April 2014, Paris. Reugny, GAAF : 177-185.

Schotsmans E.M.J. & Van de Voorde W (2017) Concealing the crime. The effects of chemicals on human tissues. In Schotsmans E.M.J., Marquez-Grant N. & Forbes S.L. (eds.), Taphonomy of Human Remains : Forensic Analysis of the Dead and the Depositional Environment, Wiley : Chichester.

Knüsel C., Schotsmans E.M.J. & Haddow S. (2016) House Societies, Ancestors, and Burials at Neolithic Çatalhöyük : Attempting to Disentangle Collective and Multiple Burials. For colloquium “Gathered in Death” by A. Schmitt, S. Déderix, J. Driessen & I. Crevecoeur, Louvain-La-Neuve.

Van Denhouwe B. & Schotsmans E.M.J. (2015) DVI Belgium : Victim identification and necrosearch. In M. Groen, N. Marquez-Grant & R. Janaway (eds.), Forensic archaeology : a global perspective, Wiley-Blackwell.

Brettell, R.C., Schotsmans E.M.J., Walton Rogers P., Reifarth N., Redfern R., Stern B. & Heron C. (2015) ‘Choicest unguents’ : molecular evidence for the use of resinous plant exudates in late Roman mortuary rites in Britain, Journal of Archaeological Science 53 : 639-648.

Schotsmans E.M.J., Wilson A.S., Brettell R., Munshi T. & Edwards H.G.M. (2014) Raman Spectroscopy as a non-destructive screening technique for studying white substances from archaeological and forensic burial contexts, Journal of Raman Spectroscopy 45 : 1301-1308.

Schotsmans E.M.J., Fletcher J.N., Denton J., Janaway R.C. & Wilson A.S. (2014) Long-term effects of hydrated lime and quicklime on the decay of human remains using pig cadavers as human body analogues : field experiments. Forensic Science International 238 : 141.e1-141.e13 (DOI : 10.1016/j.forsciint.2013.12.046)

Schotsmans E.M.J., Denton J., Fletcher J.N., Janaway R.C. & Wilson A.S. (2014) Short-term effects of hydrated lime and quicklime on the decay of human remains using pig cadavers as human body analogues : laboratory experiments. Forensic Science International 238 : 142.e1-142.e10 (DOI : 10.1016/j.forsciint.2013.12.047)

Brasseur C., Dekeirsschieter J., Schotsmans E.M.J., de Koning S., Wilson A.S., Haubruge E. & Focant J.-F. (2012) Comprehensive two dimensional gas chromatography-time-of-flight mass spectrometry for the forensic study of cadaveric volatile organic compounds released in soil by buried decaying pig carcasses. Journal of Chromatography A 125 : 163-170.

Schotsmans E.M.J., Denton J., Dekeirsschieter J., Leentjes S., Ivaneanu T., Janaway R.C. & Wilson A.S. (2012) Effects of hydrated lime and quicklime on the decay of buried human remains using pig cadavers as human body analogues. Forensic Science International 217 : 50-59.

Schotsmans E.M.J., Van de Voorde W., De Winne J. & Wilson A.S. (2011) The impact of shallow burial on differential decomposition to the body : A temperate case study. Forensic Science International 206 : e43-e48.