Artifacts of Decomposition


Core Course
Credits: 3
Instructor: Dr. Lerah Sutton

This course will describe each of the main artifacts of decomposition that can be utilized to estimate the post mortem interval. Both biological and non-biological methods will be discussed, with a specific focus on the strengths and weaknesses of each method.


  • Explain what the post mortem interval is and how it can be calculated.
  • Identify and explain all the major artifacts of decomposition.
  • Understand the strengths and weaknesses of each PMI estimation method.
  • Distinguish between biological and non-biological PMI estimations.
  • Explain how and why bodies eventually end up in 1 of 3 conditions after death.




Module 1 Post Mortem Interval Estimation – Strengths, Weaknesses, and Techniques
Module 2 Algor Mortis and Other Temperature Based Methods
Module 3 Rigor Mortis, Livor Mortis, and Other Muscle and Tissue Changes
Module 4 Putrefaction and Autolysis
Module 5 Other Biological Based Methods
Module 6 Forensic Entomology and Botany
Module 7 Skeletonization, Saponification, and Mummification
Module 8 Buried Bodies and Casper’s Dictum