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Online Forensic Archaeology and Outdoor Crime Scene Reconstruction, Vol. XXIX

Primary Course Instructors: Dennis Dirkmaat, Ph.D., D-ABFA; Michael J Hochrein, Special Agent FBI, Ret.; and Luis Cabo, M.S.

This 34-hour university-level online course will introduce participants, including law enforcement investigators, medicolegal professionals, and university students to the principles, practices and methods of Forensic Archaeology and Forensic Taphonomy as applied to the outdoor forensic scene.


Outdoor Crime Scene Reconstruction (OCSR) attempts to produce scientific-based hypotheses of what has happened at an outdoor forensic scene (surface-scatter, buried body feature, fatal fire scene, mass disaster scene) since the Death Event or victim Emplacement Event, and specifically the roles that humans have played.


This course will focus on how best to process these outdoor forensic scenes to produce the most accurate reconstructions of past events. Video lectures by forensic anthropology experts will be presented via well-illustrated and informative PowerPoint format, supplemented with instructional video vignettes demonstrating methods through virtual outdoor in-the-field practical exercises.

Crime scene mapping exercises and demonstrations, as well as filmed recoveries of mock outdoor crime scenes will be used to describe state-of-the-art methods for documentating and recovering physical evidence, including human remains, from a variety of outdoor contexts.


The course will be divided into six (6) instructional modules, each containing 6-8 lectures. Students proceed through the course at their own pace.


Module 1.

In Module 1, Dirkmaat will introduce the field of Forensic Anthropology and its relevance to medicolegal death investigation. He will discuss how the field has changed in the last 20 years from one focused on human bones analysis to a discipline that encompass the fields of forensic archaeology and forensic taphonomy. Recent reevaluations of the field have suggested that Outdoor Crime Scene Reconstructions provide the proper focus and perspective for most of forensic anthropology involvement in forensic investigations today.


Module 2.

Dirkmaat discusses the range of applications of forensic archaeology and forensic taphonomy in a variety of outdoor scenes from surface-scatters to buried body features, fatal fire scenes, and even mass disaster scenes in Module 2. He discusses how Large-Scale Searches how are best conducted. Many searches involve cadaver dogs and John Ackerman explains what to expect from a cadaver dog search. A short video of John’s cadaver dog in action locating evidence is included. Dr. Messer discusses the importance of Forensic Significance in terms of evaluating relevance of evidence to the Death Event, as well as to the reconstruction of the subsequent taphonomic time interval.


Module 3.

In Module 3 Sp. Agent Hochrein explains in detail, through a 6-part lecture, general principles and practices of forensic archaeology goals and geotaphonomy. In the second half of the module Hochrein provides details for employing outdoor crime scene mapping, equipment, approaches, goals, and results. He provides informative how-to vignettes of a range of mapping instruments.


Module 4.

In Module 4. Dirkmaat explains his concept of the proper forensic taphonomic approach to the processing of the surface-scattered scene. What are the goals and expectations, how it is processed, from evaluation of forensic significance to denuding and finally mapping. Video vignettes of all of the steps in the processing of these scenes provide visual explanations of the process. Focus will be on how to produce a hand-drawn plan view map and how we interpret the spatial distribution of the evidence. A number of actual surface scatter cases will be presented


Module 5.

In Module 5 the focus is on the processing of the buried body feature. Dirkmaat and Hochrein will provide step-by-step explanations of the burial excavation process via filmed mock burial recovery exercises. A number of interesting clandestine burial recovery cases will be highlighted.


Module 6.

This module contains bonus lectures covering topics ranging from forensic entomological goals and practical collection methods by Cabo, to Remote Sensing search protocols by Hochrein, and the utilization of drones in both large-scale forensic searches, as well as in the documentation of a found outdoor scene, by Hallett.


This course has been presented each summer (in person) for the last 28 years and represents the longest running short course devoted exclusively to forensic anthropology and forensic archaeology in the world.


You will be able to proceed at your own pace through the lecture series which will be available through the Teachable online platform. In order to obtain continuing education credit, HD Forensics is utilizing software provided by Teachable to monitor the percentage of video viewed. Participants must view 90% of a module video in order to progress on with the course.


If you are interested in receiving CE credit through another organization, please let us know and we will look into it further.

Participants are encouraged to email questions to or Live online Q&A sessions with the lecturers can be scheduled for more in-depth conversations.

Available Now - 34 hr


*Approved for 8 hours of PA Coroners Continuing Education Credit*

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