Universiteit Leiden

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Summer Course

Short Summer Course in Forensic Archaeology

Monday 25 July 2016 - Friday 29 July 2016
Van Steenis
Einsteinweg 2
2333 CC Leiden

Forensic Archaeology I - search, excavation and documentation of clandestine graves

The five-day course is aimed at forensic practitioners who would like to improve their search, documentation and excavation skills of clandestine graves. The course applies up-to-date archaeological theories and methodologies in a forensic setting. The course will be delivered by experienced forensic archaeologists from the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI), cooperating with the Dutch National Police, the Engineering Unit of the Dutch Royal Army and academics from the Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University. The itinerary includes theory and practical exercises. The outdoor part addresses practical applications for the search, discovery and excavation of buried human remains through a simulated crime scene.

After completion the participants:

  • are able to recognize human skeletal remains,
  • are able to organize and perform a search for a buried missing person and know the advantages and limitations of each search technique,
  • have a practical knowledge of the documentation of outdoor crime scenes or places of incident and the advantages and limitations of each documentation technique,
  • have a practical knowledge of human taphonomy,
  • have a basic knowledge of dating techniques for human skeletal remains,
  • have a basic knowledge and skills of the excavation of a clandestine graves,
  • have a basic knowledge of Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

The price of the Short Summer Course for individuals representing a Member or an Associate-Member of the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes (ENFSI) is EUR 650,-. The price for other individuals is EUR 750,-.

Summer Course Programme:

Day 1 Monday, July 25


  • General introduction to Leiden University and the course
  • Archaeology vs forensics
  • Forensic archaeology in the Netherlands and other regions
  • Application of archaeology and criminalistics in forensics and mass grave investigations


Human taphonomy:

  • Decomposition stages
  • Decomposition of human remains underground


Dating techniques:

  • Dry human remains, 14C and stratigraphy
  • Contextual dating
  • Other dating methods

Day 2 Tuesday, July 26

Basic knowledge for recognising human skeletal remains:

  • Human vs other mammal
  • Adult, juvenile and infant
  • Exercise in human osteology


Documentation techniques, from past to future:

  • Levels and tape measures
  • Total Station
  • 3d scans and the latest ‘state of the art’ tools
  • Photography and photogrammetry
  • Field exercise in documentation




Day 3 Wednesday, July 27 (overnight accommodation at a military base)

Excavation techniques:

  • Horizontal vs vertical
  • Clandestine burials
  • Mass grave excavation


Searching for missing persons that are presumed to be buried:

  • The use of databases and GIS in the search of clandestine burials
  • Search techniques including probe, coring, test pits and geophysics
  • Transfer to a military base near Vught
  • Field exercise in searching



Day 4 Thursday, July 28 (overnight accommodation at a military base)

  • Field Exercise in excavating a clandestine burial



Day 5 Friday, July 29

  • Transfer to the faculty of archaeology, Leiden

Combining data in GIS:

  • The visualisation of the crime scene
  • Using photogrammetry, Total Station data and evidence lists in GIS
  • Crime scene analysis using GIS
  • Exercise in GIS


Course Evaluation


The Short Summer Course in Forensic Archaeology is limited to 20 participants in order of registration. Deadline for registration is June 13, 2016.

For registration please contact Dr Sarah Inskip,  Assistant Professor in Human Osteoarchaeology at Leiden University,  s.a.inskip@arch.leidenuniv.nl.  For additional information please contact Mr Mike Groen, forensic archaeologist at the NFI, m.groen@nfi.minvenj.nl.

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