• Zoe Crossland

    Associate Professor
    965 Schermerhorn Extension, Mail Code: 5523, United States
    +1 212 854 7465



    My research focuses on the historical archaeology of Madagascar, and on forensic archaeology and evidential practices around human remains. My approach to historical inquiry is informed by a Peircean ‘semeiotic’ approach, which provides a means to explore how human lives are articulated through and within particular material conditions. I draw upon semeiotic approaches to theorize forensic evidence and to investigate the archaeological production of the past and of the dead body. Here I am interested in exploring the tension between the archaeological ability to bring the past into view on the one hand, and the work of inference and practical activity by which archaeology conjures and evaluates competing claims about the past on the other.

    My research in Madagascar is concerned with archaeologies of encounter in the highlands.  One aspect of this research traces the introduction of Protestant Christianity into Madagascar by British missionaries at the start of the 19th century. This is to consider the potential dislocation that was experienced when one way of living, learned through a lifetime’s experience within specific material and social conditions, was challenged in a confrontation with a radically different understanding of how to act effectively and morally. My research traces the ways in which people attempted to resolve and make sense of this dislocation, and the new and unanticipated formations that were created as a result. This research was published in 2014 as a Cambridge University Press book, Ancestral Encounters in Highland Madagascar. Material Signs and Traces of the Dead. I am currently finishing a monograph on my fieldwork in highland Madagascar from 1997-2010, which will present the archaeological evidence for raiding and depopulation in the highlands, associated with slavery practices of the historic period.

    My research on the production of the forensic corpse asks how the forensic evidence of the dead is conceived and composed in the US and UK, and what are the social, political, and material effects of such evidential discourse and practice? I am presently working on a book, entitled The Speaking Corpse, which explores the evidence of the forensic corpse, the ways in which it is explained and delineated for popular consumption, and the history that lies behind the treatment of the dead as evidence. This builds upon work that I undertook as a postdoctoral researcher, now published as A Fine and Private Place: The Archaeology of Death and Burial in Post-Medieval Britain and Ireland, co-authored with Annia Cherryson and Sarah Tarlow. This monograph compiled the archaeological record of human remains from the 17th to 19th centuries, and examined the evidence for dissection and autopsy, among other practices.







    2014. Encounters with Ancestors in Highland Madagascar: Material Signs and Traces of the Dead. Cambridge University Press.

    2012. A Fine and Private Place: The Archaeology of Death and Burial in Post-medieval Britain and Ireland, by A. Cherryson, Z. Crossland and S. Tarlow (co-authors). Leicester: University of Leicester Archaeological Monographs.

    In press. Disturbing Bodies: Anthropological Perspectives on Forensic Archaeology. Z. Crossland and R. Joyce (eds). SAR Press.


    Journal articles

    2014 The Anthropocene: locating agency. Journal of Contemporary Archaeology. Forum on the Anthropocene 1(1):123-28

    2013. Evidential regimes of forensic archaeology. Annual Review of Anthropology 42 (Theme: Evidence): 121-137.

    2013. Signs of mission: material semeiosis and 19th century Tswana architecture. Signs and Society 1: 79-113.

    2009. Of clues and signs: the dead body and its evidential traces. American Anthropologist 111(1):69-80.

    2009. Acts of estrangement: the making of self and other through exhumation. Archaeological Dialogues 16(1):102-125.

    2006. Landscape and mission in Madagascar and Wales in the early 19th century: ‘Sowing the seeds of knowledge’. Landscapes 7(1): 93-121.

    2003. Towards an archaeology of ‘empty’ space: the efitra of the Middle West of Madagascar. Michigan Discussions in Anthropology, 14: 18-36.

    2001. Time and the ancestors: landscape survey in the Andrantsay region of Madagascar. Antiquity 75(290): 825-836.

    2000. Buried lives: forensic archaeology and Argentina’s disappeared. Archaeological Dialogues, 7(2): 146-159.


    Book chapters

    In press. The signs of mission. Rethinking archaeologies of representation. In Materializing Colonial Encounters: Archaeologies of African Experience. François Richard (ed). New York: Springer.

    In press. Epilogue: translating bodies. In Down to Earth. Exhumations in the Contemporary World. Francisco Ferrándiz and Tony Robben, (eds). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

    In press. Writing Forensic Anthropology; imagining the field in the US. In Disturbing Bodies: Anthropological Perspectives on Forensic Archaeology. Z. Crossland and R. Joyce (eds). SAR Press.

    2011. The archaeology of contemporary conflict. In The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Ritual and Religion. T. Insoll, (ed). Oxford University Press, 285-306.

    2010. Materiality and embodiment. In The Oxford Handbook of Material Culture Studies (Ms No. 19). D. Hicks and M. Beaudry, (eds). Oxford University Press, 386-405.

    2008. Z. Crossland, M. Freeman, P. Jones and B. Boyd. The Llanbadarn Fawr ‘gravestone urn’: an object history. In Monuments in the Landscape. P. Rainbird, (ed). Windgather Press, 212-227.

    2002. Violent spaces: conflict over the reappearance of Argentina’s disappeared. In Matériel Culture. The Archaeology of Twentieth Century Conflict. J. Schofield, C. Beck, and W. G. Johnson, (eds), pp. 115-131. London: Routledge.