Prof. Caroline Sturdy Colls

Professor of Conflict Archaeology and Genocide Investigation,                 Director of the Centre of Archaeology

I am a Professor in Conflict Archaeology and Genocide Investigation at Staffordshire University specialising in Holocaust studies. I am also the Director of the Centre of Archaeology. I teach in the areas of forensic archaeology, techniques in the identification of human remains and various aspects of crime scene investigation. I graduated from the University of Birmingham with a BA(Hons) Archaeology and Ancient History in 2007 and an MPhil(B) in Archaeological Practice in 2008. I also completed my PhD thesis entitled ‘Holocaust Archaeology: Archaeological Approaches to Landscapes of Nazi Genocide and Persecution’, at the University of Birmingham. My research focuses on the application of interdisciplinary approaches to the investigation of Holocaust landscapes. As part of this research, I completed the first archaeological surveys of the former extermination camp at Treblinka (Poland), the sites pertaining to the slave labour programme in Alderney (the Channel Islands), the former Semlin Judenlager and Anhaltlager (Serbia) and killing sites in Poland and Ukraine. I have also worked on a pilot project with the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation (UKHMF) to map the terrain of Bergen-Belsen (Germany) and I was a member of the UKHMF Education Advisory Group, appointed by the UK Government from 2015-2018. In August 2015, I installed a new permanent exhibition entitled “Finding Treblinka” at the Museum of Struggle and Martyrdom in Treblinka based on the findings of my research. I am currently the Principal Investigator of three major projects focused on conflict and genocide investigation. In 2020, I was invited to deliver the Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Annual Lecture organised by United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), a highly prestigious lecture that honors excellence in research and fosters dissemination of scholarly work in Holocaust Studies.

I have published extensively in Holocaust and forensic archaeology and, in 2015, I published a book entitled Holocaust Archaeologies: Approaches and Future Directions. From the end of August until the end of December 2016, I was a Visiting Fellow at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum where I was working on my forthcoming book, Finding Treblinka. My research has received international media attention via television documentaries and radio programmes aired in Europe and the US. I have held visiting fellowships at Goldsmiths College, London (Forensic Architecture Project) and Netherlands Institute of Advanced Studies (Terrorscapes Project). I also act as a Scientific Advisor for Kamp Westerbork, sit on the NWO Holocaust Archaeology Group and have acted as a Consultant for the Polish-German Reconciliation Foundation. As a practicing forensic archaeologist, I also undertake consultancy for UK Police forces with regards the search and recovery of buried remains. My particular interests in this field include the application of forensic archaeological methods to the investigation of cold cases and socio-historic conflicts. I am a member of the Forensic Archaeology Expert Panel and Treasurer of the Forensic Archaeology Special Interest Group. I am also a Member of the Chartered Institute For Archaeologists (MCIFA) and a Member (MCSFS) and approved assessor for the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences (CSFS) University Accreditation Scheme. My interests in archaeology also go beyond the recent past and I have undertaken fieldwork in Greece, the Western Isles of Scotland and a number of sites in England.

Professional Memberships

  • Member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (MCIFA)
  • Member of the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences (MCSFS)
  • Member and former Committee Member (2013-2017) of the IFA Forensic Archaeology Special Interest Group
  • Member of the UK Forensic Archaeology Expert Panel
  • Member of the European Association of Archaeologists
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Member of the Forensic Social Sciences Association
  • Member of the European Jewish Cemeteries Advisory Network
  • Member of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation Education Advisory Group
  • Scientific Advisor for Kamp Westerbork Archaeological Project in The Netherlands
  • Research Fellow of the Forensic Architecture project hosted by Goldsmiths University, London
  • Visiting Fellow, Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS), October 2012-January 2013
  • Member of the NWO Buried War Pasts project and the Terrorscapes research project
  • Member of The Burial Research Group, Staffordshire University
  • Member of The Atlantic Wall Research Group
  • Approved assessor for the  Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences (CSFS) University Accreditation Scheme

Research Interests

  • Holocaust history and archaeology
  • Forensic Archaeology – the search for, and detection of, clandestine burials
  • Socio-historic conflict and genocide investigation
  • Advancing archaeological practice through non-invasive survey methods

Recent and Selected Publications

Journal Article: Treblinka

Sturdy Colls, C. and Ehrenreich, R. (2021). Value in Context: Material Culture and Treblinka. Current Anthropology 62(5):

Book chapter: Archaeology and Jewish law

Sturdy Colls, C. (2021). ‘”For Dust Thou Art, and Unto Dust Shalt Thou Return”: Jewish Law, Forensic Investigation, and Archaeology in the Aftermath of the Holocaust in Brown, S. and Smith, S.D. The Routledge Handbook of Religion, Mass Atrocity, and Genocide. London: Routledge, ch.27.

Journal Article: Alderney 

Sturdy Colls, C., Colls, K. and Kerti, J. (2020). Tormented Alderney: Archaeological Investigations at the Nazi Labour and Concentration Camp at Sylt. Antiquity 94(374): 512-532. Open Access

Book Chapter: Treblinka

Sturdy Colls, C. and Colls, K. (2020). The Heart of Terror: A Forensic and Archaeological Assessment of the Old Gas Chambers at Treblinka. In: Vareka, P. and Symonds, J. Archaeologies of Totalitarianism, Authoritarianism, and Repression: Dark Modernities. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, p.83-105. View details here or pre-print draft

Journal Article: Treblinka

Sturdy Colls, C. and Branthwaite, M. (2017) ‘This is proof”? Forensic evidence and ambiguous material culture at Treblinka extermination camp’. International Journal of Historical Archaeology 23. DOI 10.1007/s10761-017-0432-3. View article

Book Chapter: Cultural Genocide 

Sturdy Colls, C. (2017) ‘The Archaeology of Cultural Genocide: A Forensic Turn in Holocaust Studies?’. In Dziuban (ed.), Mapping the ‘Forensic Turn’: The Engagements with Materialities of Mass Death in Holocaust Studies and Beyond, New Academic Press, Vienna.

Book: Missing Persons

Morewitz, S. and Sturdy Colls, C. (2016) Handbook of Missing Persons. New York: Springer.

Book: Holocaust Archaeologies 

Sturdy Colls, C. (2015) Holocaust Archaeologies: Approaches and Future Directions. New York: Springer

Complete List of Publications

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