UMass Violence & Conflict Lab

Welcome to the Violence & Conflict Laboratory

memorialAnthropological studies of violence must reflect the broadening analytical horizons of the world we live in, a world that prompts scholars to consider such large-scale phenomena as civil war, black-market human organ trade, neoliberal policies, and forced disappearances. Anthropologists are particularly well suited to study the historical and cultural contexts and processes in which violence occurs. There is a lack of research and training opportunities for students interested in developing an anthropological approach to studying violence and conflict. A limited number of programs in this country and abroad emphasize the symbiotic relationship between culture, taphonomy, bioarchaeology and forensic anthropology.


The Violence and Conflict Research Laboratory provides an opportunity for students to develop an array of projects across disciplines, while the human osteology and trauma field school provides motivated students with the opportunity to learn how to document and process outdoor crime scenes. For instance, students develop projects that situate violence within a cultural and historical context, while simultaneously examining the biological and psychological implications of violence. Other students work on projects that explore the historical and cultural context of violence in social movements and policy making.


The Violence and Conflict Laboratory field school is a unique and comprehensive program in the Five College system and the region. Interest in violence, forensics, and archaeology is at an all time high. Forensic science is capturing the imagination of many students today, and teachers are capitalizing on that enthusiasm by bringing forensic science into their classrooms through the use of thematic teaching. By focusing on the use of bioarchaeological principles in the preservation and recovery of human remains in forensic and archaeological contexts, the field school trains students to fill the demand for these skills and training by integrating field and lab experience into the classroom. Having a Violence and Conflict Laboratory and Taphonomic Research Facility that focuses on the comprehensive documentation, collection and preservation of physical evidence associated with a wide variety of crime scenes and archaeological sites is a significant draw for the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

To contact us, please visit us in Machmer Hall or email us at

Any inquiries about use of the VCL should be directed to the lab manager:
Sarah Mathena at


Please visit us on our various social media platforms:

Facebook UMass VCL on Facebook

Facebook UMass Bioarchaeology & Forensic Anthropology Field School

LoV Twitter Landscapes of Violence on Twitter
















VCL News

February 2, 2017:
Dr. Ventura Pérez will be speaking at this year's meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists as a part of the session: "Beyond Visibility: How Academic Diversity is Transforming Scientific Knowledge".

Dr. Pérez's paper is "Minority Rules: Social Capital, Scientific Obligations, and the Struggle to Decolonize Biological Anthropology".


January 23, 2017:
Applications for the 2017 Field School are now online! Please access them here.

Reminder - Applications are due by March 17, 2017!


September 25, 2016:
Interested in projects that our graduate students are involved in? Be sure to check out Current Graduate Students in the VCL!


July 25, 2016:
We had a great time excavating with the students from the UMPD's Summer Youth Adventure Academy!


June 24, 2016:
Our field school students have finished excavating for the 2016 field season. Check out photos and summaries on our Alumni & Friends page.