About the VCL

The Violence and Conflict Laboratory (VCL) at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst provides the infrastructural and analytical support for the creation of a cohort of students working on issues of violence in both its biological and cultural manifestations. Through the lenses of bioarchaeology and cultural, linguistic, and forensic anthropology, it facilitates research and teaching development with collaborators within the University of Massachusetts Amherst community and worldwide. Additionally, the VCL provides editorial and publication opportunities through the open-source, peer-reviewed academic journal, Landscapes of Violence.

The VCL encompasses a human osteology and trauma laboratory as well as a violence and conflict research space located in Machmer hall room W-12. This laboratory houses a number of study collections and provides equipment and workspace for individual and collaborative projects. The VCL also encompasses a secured field laboratory called the Taphonomic Research Facility (TRF), which is the setting for the annual VCL field school on bioarchaeology and forensic anthropology. Taphonomy is the study and analysis of the environmental conditions that affect the preservation of remains, and considers the interrelationships between the biome, culture, animals, and weather. This field school introduces students to the role of the biological anthropologist, archaeologist, and forensic scientist in excavations of human remains, and assists students in developing the necessary skills and theoretical foundations to pursue graduate a degree or profession within these fields. Additionally, the TRF serves as a research space where students can develop and conduct experiments on the taphonomic processes and changes of zooarchaeological materials. The processing of animals donated to the taphonomic research program permits provides researchers with access to a collection of vertebrate skeletons housed in the VCL.

The Violence and Conflict Lab provides advanced undergraduate students, graduate students, and collaborators with materials and available lab space for original, collaborative, and independent research projects. The VCL also houses teaching collections and comparative vertebrate skeletons. In addition, microscopes and illuminated lenses, digital balances, geological screens, cameras and various forms of lab equipment for independent research projects are stored here. Additional workspace and temporary curation of study collections are also available. The facility houses a dermestid beetle colony, which can be used to process animal remains and gain a better understanding of the comparative anatomy of vertebrate skeletons.

The bioarchaeological curriculum is structured so that students will be qualified to perform comprehensive human skeletal analyses in archaeological and forensic. This is accomplished through rigorous coursework supplemented by extensive hands-on opportunities in the field and in the laboratory. Such opportunities include recoveries of archaeological and forensic sites at the TRF, and working with the material recovered from these sites, in conjunction with human skeletal material on loan from other institutions.

Research in the VCL currently spans the following regions: the American Southwest and Mid-Atlantic, Argentina, Northern and Western Mexico, Iceland, and Romania.