The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

The effect of microclimate characteristics on time to skeletonization in clothed and nude Sus scrofa domestica subjects in an arid SW US environment


Anthropology, New York University

Thursday All day, Plaza Level Add to calendar

This project explores forensic taphonomy focusing on the decomposition process for clothed and unclothed subjects as well as understanding the Cadaver Decomposition Island (CDI) where nutrients and bacteria are released from the remains. The decomposition aspect involves the time to produce a skeleton in three microclimates in an arid Southwestern United States environment on clothed and unclothed domestic pig (Sus scrofa domestica) subjects. Six subjects were placed in pairs of one clothed and one unclothed pig in wire enclosures in three outdoor microclimates: full shade, partial sun, and full sun. Observations of the subjects’ environment and decomposition progress were made regularly for forty days, at which point changes ceased to occur hourly. Subjects were then observed every third day for fourteen days, and then once a week for twenty eight days. Prior to placing the subjects on-site (June 5, 2011) and after skeletonization occurred (August 28, 2009 and January 5, 2010), soil samples were taken from the study locations directly beneath the subjects as well as control samples from outside the experimental locations. The pH, electroconductivity, and nitrates were tested in the soil samples to understand the chemical characteristics. Subjects in shade and partial shade locations reached the skeletal stage prior to the subjects located in the sun, with the clothed subject located in full shade reaching skeletonization first. Soil samples showed a general increase in acidity and salt content.

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