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Fields & Applications Forensics, Food, Beverage & Agriculture, Mass Spectrometry, Liquid Chromatography, Genomics & DNA Analysis, Gas Chromatography

Stories of the Dead

The history of our planet is both fascinating and complex, and humans are gifted with the ability to form a picture of its past by piecing together the evidence left behind by our predecessors. The clues take many forms, from galleons resting on the ocean bed to citadels standing high in the mountains and timeless relics proudly displayed in museums. Perhaps more informative than any of these (or all of them combined), however, are the human remains scattered across the globe.

The remains of ancient humans have ignited our imaginations for millennia, giving us a teasing taste of lives radically different to our own. Yet, it is only in the past century or so that we have developed the scientific means to delve deeper into the lives of our ancestors, from Neanderthals stalking their prey on the ancient planes of Europe to mass sacrifice atop the Aztec pyramids.

In honor of the ever-expanding role of analytical chemistry in archeological contexts, we decided to dig into three studies that underscore the capabilities of today’s techniques – and shine a light on the researchers deciphering the stories of the dead.

Welcome to the world’s first (probably) scientifically sound séance...

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About the Authors

Matthew Hallam

I've always wanted a career in which I could practice my creativity, even when I worked on the assembly line in a fish factory. At one time, I channeled this need into dance, drawing, poetry and fiction, and I still do most of these things. But, following completion of my MSc(Res) in Translational Oncology and time working in labs and as a Medical Writer for major pharmaceutical companies, I'm happy to find myself in a career that allows me to combine my creative side with my scientific mind as the Deputy Editor of The Analytical Scientist.


Lana Brockbals

Department of Forensic Pharmacology and Toxicology, Zurich Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.


Pier Paolo Petrone


Cristina Barrocas Dias

HERCULES Laboratory & Chemistry Department, University of Évora, Évora, Portugal.

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