Volume 30, Issue 3 (July 1985)
Decomposition of Buried Bodies and Methods That May Aid in Their Location
This is the second report on an ongoing study conducted to collect data on the decompositional rates of human cadavers and the first on buried cadavers. Six unembalmed human cadavers were buried separately in unlined trenches of various depths and allowed to naturally decompose for a time period ranging from a month to a year. During the period of burial, data were collected daily on the air, soil, and cadaver temperature at each burial site. At the end of each specified burial period the cadavers were exhumed and examined for the degree of decomposition which had taken place as well as changes in the soil pH, surface vegetation, and carrion insect activity. Analysis of the data shows that the decomposition rate of buried cadavers is highly dependent on the depth of burial and environmental temperatures. The depth at which the cadaver was buried also directly affected the degree of soil and vegetational changes as well as access by carrion insects. Application of this information can contribute to a more accurate estimation of time since death of a buried corpse and may aid in the location of such corpses.