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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Pigs in a blanket : a macroscopic investigation on the effects of clothing and microenvironment on the post-mortem interval Socholotiuk, Erin Katherine


Experimental taphonomy studies the processes that effect an organism after death within a controlled environment. It was applied in this study to examine how clothing and microenvironment influence advanced decomposition in defleshed juvenile domestic pig (Sus scrofa) femora (n=60) over 13-months. Treatment groups (n=5) of nylon, cotton, and an unclothed control were applied to four microenvironments (shaded, unshaded, buried, subaerial). Macroscopic traits were recorded based on presence/absence and analyzed as relative frequencies for each group. Decomposition rate was determined based on literature criteria, mass loss, and the timing of femoral epiphysis disarticulation. No significant difference (p < 0.05) was found in average mass loss between buried and unburied treatments. Femoral head and distal epiphysis presence/absence outcomes for each treatment group at two time points were not significant. Small sample size confounded the results. Nylon fabric showed no degradation, while cotton degraded differentially based on setting, with complete degradation in buried microenvironments. Clothing influenced the presence/absence of taphonomic traits and decomposition rate based on the interaction of environmental variables such as temperature, moisture, access to sunlight, deposition, and extreme weather phenomena. The unshaded subaerial control recorded the most advanced decomposition stage with cracking (n=2), while all other treatment groups reached skeletonization. Further study is encouraged to clarify the nature of clothing as a regionally specific taphonomic variable to aid in estimation of the post-mortem interval in forensic contexts.

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