FASE Advanced Course on PMI and FASE SYMPOSIUM HEIDELBERG- Germany (26th June - 28th Sept2013)

From 26th to 28th September 2013, the beautiful city of Heidelberg, Germany served as a stunning background for the FASE Advanced Course and the FASE symposium, by which FASE celebrated its 10th anniversary.  
This year’s course was dedicated to post-mortem interval and was organized with support of Frank Ramsthaler and the Institute of Traffic and Legal Medicine, University of Heidelberg  that provided the space for the two events and arranged the schedule and the lectures for the PMI advanced course. The course brought together participants of different professional backgrounds (forensic anthropologists, archaeologists, and anthropologists) from 21 different countries. It lasted two days and included a visit to the Mannheim Radiocarbon Laboratory.

The course covered a very important subject, essential to any forensic death investigation and aimed to offer a multidisciplinary view on the topic, covering the pathological, archaeological and anthropological way of approaching the PMI assessment problem. The topics presented during the two days did not cohere perfectly - while the first day focused specifically on the subject of the course, the second day covered a much more varied range of topics, some of them not related directly to the main aims of the course.
During the first day, the participants were able to attend the presentations of E. Baccino and S. Potente who discussed on different methods of PMI estimation in an early post-mortem period offering new insights on the problem and their personal experience. While these two lectures were for sure interesting for all the participants, they were more related to the medico-legal practice than forensic anthropology practice which deals with skeletal or decomposed remains at best. The presentations that followed, one by J. Amendt on forensic entomology and the lectures held at the Isotope Laboratory in Mannheim by B. Kromer, N. Lynnerup on radiocarbon testing, studies and caseworks and M. Verhoff on morphological and chemical techniques used in PMI estimation on bone were much more related to forensic anthropology practice at medical examiner’s offices. Herein we would like to express our appreciation to Bernd Kromer and his team, not only for lecturing at the course, but also for offering to the participants a guided tour throughout the noteworthy Mannheim Laboratory. The lectures of the second day moved away from the main goal of the course, but still managed to catch the attention of the participants. The lectures covered the topics on archaeology practice, field methods, documentation and modern archaeology and were offered by P. Held and H. Meller.
To summarise, the course was interesting and well accepted, yet with some shortcomings. The problems noted during the course will for sure serve as an admonition for the forthcoming FASE courses and workshops organizers. We thank all the participants of the course, especially those who took time to answer to our course evaluation survey and point out all the pros and cons of the advanced course.

The symposium, held on the 28th September, was a perfect occasion to celebrate the 10th FASE anniversary. The symposium offered a one-day program of oral and poster presentations.  The beautiful anatomical theatre of the Heidelberg University served as an unconventional location for the symposium, charming but still suitable for the event.

The opening session started with a short presentation on the FASE 10 year activity by Eugenia Cunha and Cristina Cattaneo, which focused on the milestones of FASE development since 2003.The opening session was enriched by the lecture given by Dr. Bradley Adams, D-ABFA on the forensic anthropology practice at the New York City’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The presentation of real-life experience, followed by presentation of case studies was very attractive for the participants. In his lecture, Dr. Adams presented the general organization of the Unit, which brings together the largest number of anthropologists outside of the US Department of Defense, as well as the every-day problems and cases that a forensic anthropologist faces in a medico-legal setting of such a huge city as New York.  Dr. Adams knew how to catch the attention of the participants, and presented the outstanding work that is being conducted in NY Chief Medical Examiner Office, especially the one associated with the identification process of the victims of the 9/11 tragedy. This was a great opportunity for the attendees of the symposium to get acquainted with the practical aspects of forensic anthropology as well with the professional reality of US colleagues which is quite different from the European one.  Dr. Adams took the opportunity to invite all the interested participants to apply for the Visiting Scientist program at the NY Chief Medical Examiner Office which allows the fellows to immerse themselves in the daily routine of the OCME-NY Anthropological Unit  for one month (more information available at http://www.nyc.gov/html/ocme/html/anthro/anthropology.shtml).

After the invited lecture, the formal poster and oral presentation program of the symposium started. The Symposium brought together presenters from 21 countries with 19 oral and 10 poster presentations. The presentations were divided in four different sessions and covered a variety of topics. Most of the presentations were case reports (10/29), while others focused on biological profile (8/29), taphonomy (6/29), identification (2/29), PMI and dating (2/29) and forensic anthropology accreditation (1/29). It is noteworthy to see an increase in forensic anthropology case reports that showcase the implementation of forensic anthropology in medico-legal practice and not only in academic circles.