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Dr Eline M.J. Schotsmans

PositionHonorary Research Fellow
DepartmentSchool of Archaeological and Forensic Sciences


Eline Schotsmans, is a post-doctoral researcher at the Laboratory of Anthropology of Past and Present Populations (PACEA UMR 5199), University of Bordeaux in France and an honorary fellow at the University of Bradford in the UK. She gained a PhD from the University of Bradford studying the taphonomic processes that govern lime burials through conducting field and laboratory experiments, studying archaeological lime burials and analysing a limed case study in conflict archaeology (Rwandan Genocide).

Eline specialises in taphonomic processes, biodegradation and forensic archaeology. Her research is focused on inorganic materials in burials and lies at the interface between archaeological and forensic sciences. The inclusion of lime or gypsum in burials has been observed from the Neolithic to the contemporary period. More specifically lime has been observed in burials related to epidemics, in multiple (mass) burials and clandestine burials. Other ‘white materials’ that are encountered in graves and often confused with lime or gypsum include degraded metals (cerussite, hydrocerussite), minerals (brushite, newberyite) or adipocere. Analytical analysis of those materials can assist in understanding taphonomic processes as well as with the interpretation of the funerary context.

Eline has a wide range of forensic experience. She collaborated with DVI Belgium and West-Yorkshire Police. In spring 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 several aircraft accidents.

At the University of Bradford Eline contributed to several forensic modules. She a guest lecturer at Université Bordeaux Montaigne.

Eline is currently co-editing a volume entitled Taphonomy of human remains: forensic analysis of the dead and the depositional environment with Dr. Nicholas Marquez-Grant and Prof. Shari Forbes which should be published by Wiley-Blackwell in 2016.

Study History

  • PhD in Forensic and Archaeological Sciences, University of Bradford, UK (2013)
  • MSc in Forensic Archaeology and Crime Scene Investigation, University of Bradford, UK (2008)
  • BSc & MSc in Archaeology, Free University of Brussels, Belgium (2007)
  • BA in Language and Speech Pathology, Lessius University College, Antwerp, Belgium (2002)

Research Areas

  • Biodegradation and taphonomic processes
  • Soil analysis, microbiology
  • Soft tissue and bone histology
  • Analytical science in archaeology: SEM, Raman spectroscopy, XRD, GC-MS
  • Mass disasters and mass disaster management
  • Biological anthropology

Current Projects

Eline's current post-doctoral position at Bordeaux is funded by IdEx (Initiative d’Excellence). She is investigating white residues from archaeological and forensic burials. In this context she studies high profile sites such as the catacomb of St. Peter and Marcellinus in Rome (in collaboration with Prof. Dominique Castex) and the Neolithic site of Catalhöyük in Turkey (in collaboration with Prof. Christopher Knüsel).


Edited books

Schotsmans E.M.J, Marquez-Grant N., Forbes S., Taphonomy of Human Remains: Forensic Analysis of the Dead and the Depositional Environment, Wiley-Blackwell (to be published in 2016)

Articles and book chapters

Schotsmans E.M.J., Brettell R., Becker K., Chapoulie R. & Castex D., 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.), Nouvelles approches de l’archéologie funéraire, Thanat’Os, Maison de Sciences de l’Homme d’Aquitaine (submitted)

Schotsmans E.M.J., Van de Vijver K., Wilson A.S., Castex D., Interpreting lime burials. A discussion in light of lime burials at St. Rombout’s cemetery in Mechelen, Belgium (10-18th century), Journal of Archaeologcial Science: Reports (submitted)

Schotsmans E.M.J., Rios L., García-Rubio A., Edwards H.G.M., Munshi T., Van de Vijver K. & Wilson A.S., Lime burials from the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939): a case study. In H. Kars and L. Van den Eijkel (eds.), Soil Forensics, Springer (accepted - to be published in 2016)

Van Denhouwe B. & Schotsmans E.M.J., DVI Belgium: Victim identification and necrosearch. In M. Groen, N. Marquez-Grant & R. Janaway (eds.), Forensic archaeology: a global perspective, Wiley-Blackwell (accepted - ISBN 978-1-118-74598-4 to be published in March 2015)

Brettell, R.C., Schotsmans E.M.J., Walton Rogers P., Reifarth N., Redfern R., Stern B. & Heron C. (2014) ‘Choicest unguents’: molecular evidence for the use of resinous plant exudates in late Roman mortuary rites in Britain, Journal of Archaeological Science (DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2014.11.006)

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)

Focant J.-F., Stefanuto P.-H., Brasseur C., Dekeirsschieter J., Haubruge E., Schotsmans E.M.J., Wilson A.S., Stadler S. & Forbes S.L. (2013) Forensic cadaveric decomposition profiling by GCxGC-TOFMS analysis of VOCs, Chem. Bull. Kazakh Natl.Univ. 4: 177–186

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

Schotsmans E.M.J. (2008) Diachronic research on the decomposition and preservation of buried human remains in the soil of Flanders. Terra Incognita. Annual review of Archaeological Master Research in Flanders 3: 55-68

Schotsmans E.M.J. (2007) Decomposition of buried human remains in Flanders. Feniks 2: 23-40

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