Faculty Profile: Zoe Crossland

Zoe Crossland

Associate Professor, Anthropology


Zoe Crossland is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. Her research focuses on the historical archaeology of Madagascar, and on forensic archaeology and evidential practices around human remains. She is 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.


Her 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. Her 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, and it culminated in 2014 as a Cambridge University Press book, Ancestral Encounters in Highland Madagascar: Material Signs and Traces of the Dead. She is 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.


Prof. Crossland is also 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 she 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.

Undergraduate Courses Taught

  • Landscape: Interpreting Place