Psychologists describe four kinds of support: (1) instrumental, “to provide the necessities of life”; 2) emotional, ” to give strength to”; 3) appraisal, “to give aid or courage to”; and 4) information, “by providing new facts.”

In forensic psychology, assessing the kinds and levels of support a person has and what types of support must be created will help to evaluate that person’s level of risk for engaging in a criminal act. 

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[ NEWS ] Forensic examination determines weapons used on 9th-14th century remains, Turin, Italy

In this paper, "Weapon-related Cranial Lesions from Medieval and Renaissance Turin, Italy", remains recovered from the Cathedral of S. Giovanni in Turin were examined to determine if they had died due to violent injuries (combat), and to attempt to identify the weapons used to perpetrate these injuries.

A total of 113 sets of remains were recovered, including 17 children below the ages of 14. Of the adults, 69 were male, 22 were female and 5 were unidentifiable. Anthropological examination of the remains allowed the researchers to specifically identify those exhibited extensive bone trauma to the skull and skeleton.

Two sets were from the early Medieval period (9th century) and the rest from the Renaissance period (14-15th century).   Except for two injuries, all traumas were identified as taking place perimortem (before death).

As the researchers note: "The aim of this study was to investigate these traumas from an osteological perspective, in order to better understand the patterns of interpersonal violence in medieval and Renaissance periods in Italy."

  • Defining weapons and the types of damage they inflict

The authors started by defining the types of damage they expected to see, and the nature of the weapons which would cause such injuries.

"Sharp force traumas are caused by bladed instruments, such as swords, daggers, axes and poleaxes, which produce linear lesions with clean well-defined edges and flat and smooth cut surfaces; blunt force fractures are produced by blunt instruments, including war hammers, maces and top spikes of poleaxes, which leave concentric or radiating fractures with an internal bevel; and projectile force traumas are inflicted by projectile weapons, such as arrows and crossbow bolts."

For sharp force trauma, direction of the cut was determined by the effects of the trauma:  if entering at right angles, damage would be equal on both sides of the cut.  If entering at an angle, the entry side cut would appear smooth, the stop-point would fracture/flake. Whether a fracture was caused by blunt weapon impact or a projectile weapon was determined by what side of the skull exhibited “beveling” fractures (internal bevels indicating a blunt weapon, external bevels indicating a “rhrough-and-impact” projectile strike on the victim’s skull.

  • The nature of the remains

The authors note that the two early Medieval remains were found in individual graves of a type reserved for the upper social classes of the time.  The Renaissance remains were all found in the same large grave, suggesting they had all perished in the same combat.

  •  Examination of the remains

The researchers then go into the details of the remains, were they were located, and describe any traumas identified on both the main skeleton and cranium, but focusing specifically on the skull traumas. This is because skeletal remains only allow for injuries reaching the bone to be identified.

Forensic anthropologists would not, for example, be able to assign a cause of death to a fatal soft-tissue injury, such as the heart being struck or a major artery being cut (at least one other set of remains buried in the Renaissance grave showed well-healed traumas; it may well have been that this person died of soft tissue injuries).

The analysis of the cranial traumas is extremely detailed.  Interestingly, several of the remains show old, well-healed traumas, suggest many previous wounds in battle. Traumas identified included (listed in order of remains being examined:

  1. (Early Medieval) 7 cm long sharp force cut, with fractures indicating the attacker pulled the blade out of the wound with force;  followed by a cut indicating it was delivered from above, with the victim reclining.
  2. (Early Medieval) 5cm long sharp force cut, shaving away the surface of the skull.  A second, apparently glancing blow would have likely have caused severe injury to the victim’s face.
  3. (Renaissance) A massive trauma to the front of the skull indicates a blade impacting and removed with force.  A second, healed trauma shows signs of medical intervention from a previous wound.
  4. (Renaissance) A diamond-shaped trauma on the right-rear of the cranium suggests a blunt force or projectile strike from behind.
  5. (Renaissance) A beveled impact on the top of cranium suggests the use of a blunt force weapon or a projectile strike.  A second, larger trauma is indicative of sharp force, penetrating and forcibly removed.
  6. (Renaissance) Multiple traumas, including sharp force blows and a projectile strike delivered with the victim both standing and on the ground.  The fatal blow is identified as a massive blunt force trauma.  Additionally, one long-healed blunt force trauma was noted.
  • What weapons caused the injuries

The researchers go into a quite detailed discussion of types of weapons and the nature of the traumas they inflict, quoting many previous researchers to defend their analysis. In the main, the results of the research resulted in the following table (click to view):

  • Why are cranial trauma so frequently found?

The authors then discuss why cranial trauma is so frequently found on the remains of those who died in combat, as both their research and previous researchers have noted.  While this seems a simple question, the authors seek to prove what is commonly held beliefs in these reasons through scientific observation and fact.  Most simply put, they theorize that:  the head was a main target;  that men fighting on foot vs. those on horseback must receive more head trauma simply by nature of their respective platforms;  that body armour was so effective it made the head a primary target.

  • Examination of the Renaissance historical record and conclusion

At least for the Renaissance remains, there were a number of historical records — dated to the same time as the grave — which suggests these warriors did not die in a major battle.  There was no recorded major conflict fought by Turin forces during this period.  There were, however, a number of city revolts and riots which took place.

Taking this fact into account, and the additional fact that the remains recovered included women and children, and that a number of the men showed previously healed traumas, the authors conclude: "Three sharp force lesions caused by bladed weapons were identified in two individuals from the early medieval period; in the Renaissance sample, the majority of the nine peri mortem injuries were sharp force wounds, followed by blunt force traumas caused by hand-held weapons. The lack of lesions caused by projectile force lesions and of post-cranial wounds at Piazza S. Giovanni was evidenced."

"Despite the presence of weapon injuries, the results obtained from the study of the Renaissance sample are different from the findings of other contemporary battlefields. It is highly likely that the individuals of the Renaissance age were not young soldiers employed in war episodes and brought back to Turin for burial after battles that had taken place elsewhere. As attested by some old wound, they were probably mercenary soldiers, who had died in riots or in other violent episodes that had taken place in the city, as the historical records for the Renaissance age seem to confirm."

Source: Copyright © 2014 Randy McCall |


In her excellent and morbidly fascinating book Necropolis: London and Its Dead, author Catharine Arnold describes in detail the subterranean presence of corpses found throughout the British capital. To no small extent, she makes clear, dead bodies were basically buried everywhere, to the point that, as Arnold pithily states, “London is one giant grave.” 


As Arnold points out, there is an otherwise inexplicable shift in direction in the Piccadilly line passing east out of South Kensington. “In fact,” she writes, “the tunnel curves between Knightsbridge and South Kensington stations because it was impossible to drill through the mass of skeletal remains buried in Hyde Park.”

Put another way, the ground was so solidly packed with the interlocked skeletons of 17th-century victims of the Great Plague that the Tube’s 19th-century excavation teams couldn’t even hack their way through them all. The Tube thus deviates SW-by-NE to avoid this huge congested knot of skulls, ribs, legs, and arms tangled in the soil—an artificial geology made of people, caught in the throat of greater London.

Thus, like the example of the Aztec skulls unearthed by subway crews in Mexico City, London’s Tube also sits atop, cuts around, and tunnels through a citywide charnel ground of corpses, its very routes and station locations haunted by this earlier presence in the ground below.

(via How Corpses Helped Shape the London Underground)

The dolls originated in the US during the Victorian era, around 1860 and were called Frozen Charlottes, (or Charlie for males), dolls. The dolls were made in response to the enormous popularity of a song, “Fair Charlotte“, which was based on an 1843 poem penned by Maine journalist, Seba Smith, entitled, “A Corpse Going to a Ball.”

There is some debate as to wether Smith’s poem [Fair Charlotte] was simply a cautionary tale or based on an actual incident. Whatever the origins, the poem and ballad served as a cautionary tale to young ladies about the dangers of vanity and not heeding your parents.


He took her hand into his own, twas cold as any stone
He tore the veil from off her face and the cold stars on her shone
And quick into the lighted hall her lifeless form he bore
Fair Charlotte was a frozen corpse and a word she ne’er spoke more
He took her back into the sleigh and quickly hurried home
And when he came to her father’s door oh how her parents moaned
They mourned the loss of their daughter dear while Charles wept o’er their gloom
Until at length, Charles died of grief and they both lay in one tomb

(via Don’t Talk So Much: The Macabre History of the Frozen Charlottes | prettyawfulthings)

Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychology is described as the the forensic study of how the mind works ecspecially in the instances of violent crime.

During the time of investigating a violent crime/murder, a forensic psychocologist is put in charge of figuring why the individual may have committed the act. In some cases, there are levels of extreme stress or emotional issues that could have caused a person to lash out. A forensic psychologist will be called upon to further investigate. The purpose of forensic psychology is to prove the connections between emotional distress, psychocological strain, and violence.

A forensic psychologist will investigate what caused a person to commit their crime if they are not yet in custody. There’s many steps to doing this. The first step is to study the crime scene and how the victim was attacked. This can determine the perpatrators state of mind during which he/she committed the crime. This helps determine if the crime had been planned ahead of time or if the suspect merrily acted on impulse.

Another job of a forensic psychologist is determine if a suspect is mentally well enough to stand trail. Determing a if a suspect is mentally stable is a crucial step if police want to pursue a criminal conviction. It must be known that the individual has a true grasp on reality and knows he/she is responsible for their own actions.

Forensic psychologist often come up with the criminal profile while the suspect is still on the lose. A profile provides info regarding the assailants current state of mind, reasons why the crimes are being committed, and what steps can be taken to further elaborate on the situation.

A third step in to a forensic psychologist investiagtion is the “psychological autopsy.” This profile is used when someone is takes their own life. The profile determines if the person actually meant to take their own life or if it was accidental. Influences such as drugs and alcohol could have lead to this event taking place. A forensic psychologist must piece together the facts or piece together the individuals last days/hours to the best of their ability.

Liver, fractures and lacerations with blunt force injury, gross
Massive abdominal blunt force injury often leads to liver injury, since it is the largest internal organ. Note the multiple lacerations seen here over the capsular surface of the liver. Damage to abdominal organs with lacerations, crush injuries, and rupture can lead to bleeding into the peritoneal cavity known as hemoperitoneum. A peritoneal lavage can detect such bleeding.

New Student to Archaeology or Anthropology?


If you’re wondering what the best literature and textbooks are for these subjects we have a page full of our suggestions that we’ve gathered for you!

Here are a few of the most useful textbooks to have:

  • Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice (UK/Europe Link)
    Archaeology Essentials: Theories, Methods, and Practice (Second Edition) (US/Worldwide Link)
    by Colin Renfrew and Paul Bahn. Rating: *****
    “This book is highly acclaimed and is the ultimate archaeology bible for students, or people new to archaeology and want to get stuck right in. After being recommended it by two of my University lecturers, I took it out from the library to use for my assignments so many times I ended up buying it.”

  • The Human Bone Manual (UK/Europe)
    The Human Bone Manual (US/Worldwide Link)
    by Tim D. White and Pieter A. Folkens. Rating: *****
    THIS IS A MUST HAVE – If you are studying anything to do with human remains and anthropology!!
    “I cannot stress how important this book is to have. It is the ‘go-to’ guide on anything relating to bones and skeletal remains. It’s illustrated as well, so if your course isn’t too hands on – you will still understand what the book is talking about. It’s a must for any budding anthropologist, and one of my favourite books to read. It’s really small and concise so its pretty much a ‘pocket book’.”

Click here for a full list of anthropological and archaeological reading materials.


Also check out our “Quick Tip” posts where we breakdown subjects into easier, bite-sized chunks to help you learn about the practical sides of anthropology and archaeology.

We’ve currently covered these topics:


We’ve just added more unique, hand-crafted archaeology/anthropology tool rolls, which you can visit here:

We ship our tool rolls worldwide, and are all £24!! Above are a few of our brand new designs!

If you buy one of our Small Tool kits, it will contain:

12x Stainless Steel Small Finds Archaeology Tools!
4x Tweezers - to allow you to delicately handle finds!
1x Sharpie permanent marker pen - for labelling tool find trays or bags!
1x Mechanical Pencil - to help you write when the weather is gloomy!
1x HB Pencil - to allow you to sketch your finds, and with extra room to add your own personal tools.

If you buy our Delicate Tool kit, it contains:

6x Plastic, lightweight flexible excavation tools – these are perfect for excavating fragile and delicate materials like skeletal remains, as they provide precise digging without the pressure of metal tools!
5x Brushes - to help you clean your finds.
4x Tweezers - to allow you to delicately handle your finds!
1x Sharpie permanent marker pen - for labelling tool find trays or bags!
1x Mechanical Pencil - to help you write when the weather is gloomy!
1x HB Pencil - to allow you to sketch your finds, and with extra room to add your own personal tools.

Forensic Psych: Serial Killer Phases


Forensic psychologists identify a cycle that a serial killers goes through when planning and executing a murder. It is generally six phases - 

1.) The Aura Phase: This is where the motive to kill begins. A serial killer fed up with the stressors of real life will slowly begin to shift into a fantasy world. Here, the ideas of murder will begin to flourish; fantasies of the impending satisfaction and details of the killing will become an obsession. If the killer drinks or does drugs, use will increase tremendously. 

2.) The Trolling Phase: Now the killer will begin to lurk and “troll” around for a potential setting - and potential victims for their crime. They usually seek areas that they are familiar and comfortable with.

3.) The Wooing Phase: Kinda self explanatory. The killer has focused in on his/her potential victim. Now they work on luring the individual in, whether through grooming, charming, or gaining their trust. The wooing phase leads to…

4.) The Capture Phase: Again, self explanatory. After gaining a victim’s confidence, the killer captures them. They are now in almost complete control of the individual.

5.) The Murder and Totem Phase: The killer’s vision is finally fulfilled. They finally indulge in a murder, satisfying themselves in whatever way they see fit - either for sexual, excitement, or financial/material gratification. This provides the ultimate high; a killer feels in control of his/her life in a way that is impossible anyway else. But the high cannot last forever, and that is why many serial killers take an extra step and keep some kind of totem. Whether it’s a photograph of the victim, a piece of clothing, or even a body part, many keep these little charms to try to lengthen out the feeling. 

6.) Depression - But even a totem is not enough. Soon the killer snaps out of the delusion. The victim was a brief break from a reality, and depression sets in. We have now come full circle! Because the serial killer will soon grow exhausted and fall back into the Aura Phase, beginning the cycle again.

The breakthrough came when Dr Jari Louhelainen, an expert in historic DNA, was commissioned to study a shawl found with Eddowes, the second-last “confirmed” victim of the Ripper more than 125 years ago.

The shawl — which still retained historic stains — had been bought by a businessman at an auction in 2007.

“It has taken a great deal of hard work, using cutting-edge scientific techniques which would not have been possible five years ago,” Dr Louhelainen told a British newspaper.

“Once I had the profile, I could compare it to that of the female descendant of Kosminski’s sister, who had given us a sample of her DNA swabbed from inside her mouth.

“The first strand of DNA showed a 99.2 per cent match, as the analysis instrument could not determine the sequence of the missing 0.8 per cent fragment of DNA. On testing the second strand, we achieved a perfect 100 per cent match.”

(via DNA tests ‘prove’ that Jack the Ripper was a Polish immigrant named Aaron Kosminski)

Textbook of the Week: Archaeology of Disease.

The Archaeology of Disease (UK/Europe)

The Archaeology of Disease (US/Worldwide Link)

by Charlotte Roberts and Keith Manchester. Rating: *****

“This is a essential if you’re studying diseases or taphonomy. It is fully illustrated with amazing case studies to display all diseases – ranging from simple fractures to malnutrition and infections.
Brilliant book, helped me a lot with my university Anthropology unit where I had to examine a bone and conclude which illness it had.”

Every week we highlight one archaeology/anthropology textbook from our suggested readings, a full list of our suggested resources can be found here, on our Useful Literature page.

Criminal Psychology: The Subtypes of Multiple Murder


The term “multiple murderer” is pretty self explanatory - you are a multiple murderer when you’ve killed more than one person. Psychologists have grouped multiple murderers into three categories - 

1.) The Mass Murderer: Whenever 4+ are killed in one period of time - it is classified as a mass murder. Sandy Hook, the Colombine Massacre, and the Virgina Tech Massacre are all examples of mass murder. It’s interesting to note that if the killer takes three lives, committing suicide would be enough to bump the number up to four - classifying as a mass murder.

2.) Spree Killers: Spree murders are classified based on a lack of “cooling period”. A murderer will kill in one location, and then travel to another and kill again in the same time frame rather than wait a few days. This category requires 2+ victims. An example of a spree murder would be the Beltway sniper attacks in which seventeen year old Lee Boyd Malvo and his step-father drove around several states for multiple days randomly shooting bystanders from their car. 

3.) Serial Killer: Unlike spree killers and mass murderers, a serial killing requires deliberate planning as well as a cooling period. This category is 3+ victims. An example of a serial killing would be Ted Bundy’s reign from about 1961 to 1974, during which he killed 36+ people.