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The Effects of Soil Environment on Postmortem Interval: A Macroscopic Analysis

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Burial environment, in particular soil moisture, has a significant impact on the type, rate, and extent of bone degradation, which ultimately affects estimations of the postmortem interval (PMI). The purpose of this research is to determine the effects of soil moisture on the color, weight, condition, and texture of bone as it relates to the PMI. Bone changes occurring over two different time intervals (2 and 5 months) were examined using 120 sus scrofa leg bones. During each time interval bones were buried in two soil environments, one of which was drier than the other. The bones in both environments lost weight over time but the net weight loss was greater for bones in the higher moisture environment. There was no change in color, texture, or overall condition, indicating that 150 days is not long enough for such alterations to occur, regardless of the moisture level of the burial environment.
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Keywords: burial; decomposition; forensic anthropology; forensic science; postmortem interval; skeletonization; soil moisture

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto at Mississauga, 3359 Mississauga Rd. N., Mississauga, ON, Canada L5L 1C6.

Publication date: November 1, 2009

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