Forensic archaeologist wins first National Postdoc Prize

6 October 2017

Forensic archaeologist Hayley Mickleburgh at Leiden University has won the first Dutch National Postdoc Prize. The award was announced by The Young Academy and the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities. Mickleburgh, who studies how corpses decompose and skeletons fall apart, will receive EUR 10,000 to spend on research.

Foodways and disease

Dr Hayley Louise Mickleburgh (born in Poole, UK, in 1984) holds an MA (hons.) in Archaeology (2007) from Leiden University. She received her PhD in Archaeology at Leiden in 2013 for her study of foodways, health and disease in the pre-Columbian Caribbean. Her research involved studying the teeth of centuries-old human skeletons from Guadeloupe. Since 2013, she has been developing better methods to document how human remains decompose. She works as an expert for the Netherlands Police Academy and as a guest researcher at Texas State University (USA).

Body farm

Mickleburgh investigates how the position in which a body is buried can influence its decomposition. She studies this on a ‘body farm’ in Texas using methods drawn from archaeology, forensic studies, biology and geochemistry. For example, Mickleburgh discovered that the shoulder blade sometimes loosens much earlier in decomposition than expected. This is useful information for criminal investigators and for archaeologists who examine burial rituals.

National Postdoc Prize

The National Postdoc Prize was established in 2017 by The Young Academy and the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities (KHMW). The prize is intended for postdoc researchers and assistant professors who conduct excellent research that could have a major impact on society. The researchers are nominated by professors and directors of Dutch research institutes.

The award ceremony will take place at Hodshon House in Haarlem, the headquarters of the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities, on 17 November 2017.

What happens to a body once it’s buried? Lecture by Hayley Mickleburgh (Leiden University / NEXUS1492) for the University of the Netherlands, 10 January 2017. (In Dutch)