William Belcher
Associate Professor Anthropology


I am a forensic anthropologist and archaeologist, but also an environmental archaeologist with a specialty in animal bones from archaeological sites-zooarchaeology. I am interested in understanding the application of forensic anthropological methods to the identification of human remains. These are important to the families and friends of descendants as forensic anthropology brings the identification back to a family for closure of an emotion and situation of loss. We attempt to recover possible human remains restore the identity to loved ones through research-based forensic science. As the Coordinator for the Graduate Certificate in Forensic Anthropology, I welcome students at the undergraduate and graduate level to learn the identification techniques and processes as a service-based discipline as UNL.

Research and Current Projects

I have worked in two disparate areas of research, one as an environmental archaeologist and the other as a forensic anthropologist/archaeologist. My environmental archaeology program focuses on the analysis of ancient (3rd and 4th millennium BCE) fish remains and their modern counterparts. This will allow us to examine significant changes in fishing, butchery, ancient trade, as well as climate change.

After retiring from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, my primary focus at UNL is to provide opportunities to learn and conduct research related to the identification of missing US service members in conjunction with the Scientific Analysis Directorate Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, NE.


ANTH 455/855 – Forensic Archaeology: Clandestine Burials, Mass Graves, and Human Rights

ANTH 462/862 – Forensic Anthropology

ANTH 487E/887E – Analysis of Archaeological Materials - Archaeofauna

ANTH 490/890 – Forensic Archaeology Field Techniques

Selected Publications

2019 Military Excavations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea):  Adventures in Diplomacy and Oppression.  In Realizing Archaeology: Personal Stories from Asia and the Pacific Islands, edited by Suzanne P. Finney.  University of Hawai‘i Press, Honolulu. IN PRESS.

2019 Passalacqua, Nicholas, Marin Pilloud, and William R. Belcher.  Scientific integrity in the forensic sciences: consumerism, conflicts of interest, and transparency.  Science and Justice.

2018 Fish symbolism and fish remains in ancient South Asia.  In Walking with the Unicorn:  Jonathan Mark Kenoyer Felicitation Volume, edited by Dennys Frenz, Gregg Jamison, Randall Law, Massimo Vidale, and Richard H. Meadow, pp. 27-42.  Archaeopress, Oxford.

2017 Rona M. Ikehara-Quebral, Miriam T. Stark, William R. Belcher, Voeun Vuthy, John Krigbaum, R. Alexander Bentley, Michele Toomay Douglas, and Michael Pietrusewsky.  Biocultural Practices during the Transition to History at the Vat Komnou Cemetery, Angkor Borei, Cambodia. Asian Perspectives 191-236.

2017 Belcher, William R. and David Sanger.  The Roque Island Archaeological Research Project, Maine, USA:  Methodologies and Results.  Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 10 (North American East Coast Shell Midden Research):126-142.

2012 Emanovsky, P.E. and William R. Belcher. The Many Hats of a Recovery Leader: Perspectives on Planning and Executing World-Wide Forensic Investigations and Recoveries at the JPAC-Central Identification. In A Companion to Forensic Anthropology, edited by D.E. Dirkmaat. Pp. 567-592. Wiley-Black, Publishers.

2011 An ethnoarchaeological study of marine coastal fish butchery in Pakistan. In Ethnozooarchaeology: the present past of human-animal relationships, edited by Umberto Albarella and Angela Trestcote, pp.93-104. Oxbow Press, Oxford and Oakville, CT.

2000 Belcher, Wayne R. and William R. Belcher. Geologic constraints on the Harappa archaeological site, Punjab Province, Pakistan. Geoarchaeology 15:7:679-713.

2019 Review of Review of Cole, Paul M. POW/MIA Accounting: Vol. 2: J*P*A*C and the Politics of Human Skeletal Identification.  Forensic Science International:  Synergy 1:111-112.

2008 Review of The Scientific Investigations of Mass Graves:  Towards Protocols and Standard Operating Procedures, edited by Margaret Cox, et al.  American Journal of Human Biology 21:1:137.

2003 Review of Indian Archaeology in Retrospect, Volume II:  Protohistory – Archaeology of the Harappan Civilization, edited S. Settar and Ravi Korisettar.  Asian Perspectives 42:2:395-397.

2002 Review of Neumann, T.W. and R.M. Sanford (2001).  Cultural Resources Archaeology: An Introduction.  American Antiquity 68:3:599-600.

Educational Background

  • Western Washington University, B.A., M.A., Anthropology
  • University of Maine-Orono, M.S., Quaternary Studies
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ph.D., Anthropology
  • American Board of Forensic Anthropology Diplomate Certification (No. 66)

Research Interests

Forensic Anthropology, Forensic Archaeology, Hard Tissue Taphonomy, Zooarchaeology, Ethnoarchaeology, South Asia/Arabia Archaeology


Forensic Anthropology Certificate

Ethnoarchaeology of Ravi Fisherfolk in Pakistan

Ethnoarchaeology of a Balochi Fishing Village in Pakistan

Research Gate Profile

Curriculum Vitae