Volume 44, Issue 5 (September 1999)
Marine Taphonomy: Adipocere Formation in a Series of Bodies Recovered from a Single Shipwreck
Taphonomy of marine environments has been studied mostly from individual cases. The formation of adipocere, or “grave-wax,” is an important indicator of the postmortem interval.
In the present paper, the conditions and the timing of adipoceric formation are observed in a series of 15 cadavers recovered at different times, over a period of 433 days, from the same contained environment. Initial foci of adipocere on the subcutaneous tissue of the cadavers were detected as early as 38 days from the time of immersion in cold (10–12°C) sea water. The discrepancies between our findings and previous reports on the correlation between time since death and decomposition stages in marine environments are discussed.