Documenting Skeletal Scatters in Obstructed Wooded Environments Using Close-Range Photogrammetry

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Morgan J. Ferrell
John J. Schultz


Forensic scenes involving human skeletal remains in obstructed wooded environments are challenging to document. One potential solution is to document the scene in 3D utilizing close-range photogrammetry (CRP). This method enables the generation of realistic 3D models and accurate plan-view maps of the scene. The purpose of this research was to explore the use of CRP to preserve contextual information of simulated scenes involving scattered human remains in obstructed wooded environments. The main goal was to improve CRP methodology as well as demonstrate how to incorporate this method into the forensic archaeology documentation protocol. Two large skeletal scatters were documented to test the capabilities of CRP in an obstructed environment. Photographs were collected freehand and 3D models were processed using Agisoft Metashape Professional. Accuracy was assessed through visual analysis, root-mean square (RMS) reprojection errors, and total scale bar errors. While visual errors were present when zoomed in, the RMS reprojection and scale bar errors still indicated highly accurate models. However, the wooded environment presented numerous challenges that made utilizing CRP more difficult. Therefore, guidelines were outlined for documenting skeletal scatters in wooded environments using CRP, with a focus on addressing variables that can affect image quality. Overall, CRP is a viable method for documenting complex scenes in wooded environments which should be incorporated into forensic archaeological protocols. 

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