Volume 50, Issue 3 (May 2005)
A Report of Decomposition Rates of a Special Burial Type in Edmonton, Alberta from an Experimental Field Study
Regional studies that examine decomposition rates of certain faunal remains can help to determine time since death. Forensic anthropologists have long used qualitative decomposition data, but linking these to more quantitative data could improve time since death estimations. Experiments were developed in which domestic pigs (Sus scrofa) were buried with varying characteristics then excavated and observed over a period of 15 months in Edmonton, Alberta. Data recorded after two weeks, five weeks, three months, one year, and 15 months were correlated with stages of decomposition as well as time since death, climate data, grave type, clothing, burial depth, and other factors. Results from these experiments provide useful regional information about stages of decomposition in a burial context. Pigs buried in June were skeletonized by approximately three to five weeks, while those buried in May were skeletonized between five weeks and three months. Climate data, insects, and grave type contributed the most to advanced decomposition, mainly in the form of mummification, and skeletonization.