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Montana Tech anthropology students investigate fake crime scene

Posted at 12:09 PM, Apr 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-02 14:09:44-04

BUTTE - A bizarre cult killing, bones found in a shallow grave … calm down, this is just a forensic archeologist class at Montana Tech in Butte where students are investigating a fake crime scene to gain real knowledge.

“First I thought it was a collar bone, but I really don’t think so, it looks like an arm bone of some sort,” one student said while finding a bone in the dig site.

The plastic bones were buried in a field near the campus about two years ago by former students and they created a crime scenario for this forensics class to try to solve. Biological anthropology Professor Michael P. Masters says this fieldwork is very valuable.

“I teach them these things in the classroom, we come out here and they forget everything. So by walking them through this process and teaching them in the field, it gives them experience and the ability to learn by making mistakes, which I think is important for the learning process,” said Masters.

Students played different roles as crime scene investigators as they carefully removed dirt looking for evidence.

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The plastic bones were buried in a field near the campus about two years ago by former students and they created a crime scenario for this forensics class to try to solve. Biological anthropology Professor Michael P. Masters says this fieldwork is very valuable.

“Maybe it’s some sort of cloth or a piece of bone, really, we’re just looking for something that’s out of place,” said Montana Tech student Johannes Chandler.

Sure, these students had the skills of CSI investigators, but could they act like they do on TV?

"You’re a cop on the edge, give me your cop on the edge. What kind of animal would do this?"

“I can’t …” said student Dawson Roesti.

"Take two. What kind of animal would do this?"

“I have no idea!” Roesti shouted.

"Yes! Cop on the edge. I love it!"

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And while these students are having a lot of fun, they are learning serious skills that can be applied in real-world criminal investigations.

“It’s an applied science and they can take what they’re learning here and if their skills are ever needed in an unfortunate situation of a crime or a murder being committed, they can apply that in the real world,” said Masters.

The students will have a week to review the evidence and solve the crime.