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Forensic Taphonomy

Do you want to know whether decomposing cadaver material has an effect on the environment, and vica versa? You reconstruct past events, learn to extract DNA from skeletal remains, and dive into the study of fossilization of organic remains.

In the minor Forensic Taphonomy we combine two sciences that answer this question. You reconstruct past events with DNA traces or dive into the study of fossilization of organic remains.

When you dive into this unique world you get to work with themes such as decomposition, applied to forensic science and the focus is on the decomposition of human remains. After an analysis period of twenty weeks, you write a field analysis report. Parallel to this period, you immerse yourself in the literature of a topic of your choice and write a research proposal for an applied taphonomic study into an identified knowledge gap. In the second part of the minor, you roll up your sleeves and, for example, put your own research proposal into practice by carrying out a taphonomic experiment. You set this up yourself and you complete it with a thesis.

Added Value:
This minor that combines knowledge from archaeology and forensic science, is a niche subject. Interesting for students with either an archaeological or biological background and an interest in forensic science. The minor offers them hands-on experience and knowledge on the taphonomic changes in cadaveric material. Students will participate in a large research group and learn how to set-up their own experiment. Notable also is that further education on this topic at home and abroad, is limited, especially of this volume (30 ects).


After this course the student has/is able to:

  • Insight in the value and complexity of taphonomic studies.
  • Knowledge of the process of decomposition of the human body.
  • Knows the effects of in- and external variables on the process of decomposition.
  • Describe the process of decomposition objectively, document it according to the guidelines, analyze and interpret changes.
  • Determine the state of remains based on internationally accepted models.
  • Identify possible knowledge lacunae in literature, based on acquired knowledge, and write a research proposal. 
  • Set up a taphonomic experiment, execute it and report the results.
  • Make microscopic slides from bone. 


Propaedeutic certificate achieved.

Biomedical science, biotechnology, forensic science, archeology, biology.

Provide documents for entry requirements: Propedeutic diploma.

This minor allows for 25 students in total: there are 5 reserved spaces for external students. In case the 5 reserved spaces are full you will be added to the waiting list and informed about enrollment after closure of the admission term.


  • Mandatory: Forensic Taphonomy, the post-mortem fate of human remains, by William D. Haglund & Marcella H. Sorg. 
  • Advised: Manual of Forensic Taphonomy, by James T. Pokines & Steven A. Symes.(2014) 
  • Proper work clothing and gear. 


Lectures: 46 hours
Self-study: 150 hours
Presentation: 10 hours

Field study: 70 hours
Workshops: 32 hours
Field analysis report: 112 hours

Research proposal
Annotation: 20 hours
Literature study: 140 hours
Report: 64 hours

Literature study: 66 hours
Methodology: 12 hours
Execution: 80 hours
Report: 32 hours
Presentation: 6 hours


  • Field analysis report, individual essay.
  • Research proposal, individual essay.
  • Exam Taphonomy, individual exam, closed book.
  • Research thesis, individual essay. 

Rating scale: Grade (one decimal)

Aanvullende informatie

Nesessities: Proper work clothing and gear.