A qualitative comparison of mass grave and single grave decomposition
Turner-Byfield, Evonne Daelia
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Anthropological investigation of mass burials is a process that has social and judicial ramifications requiring competent and thorough comprehension of the decompositional transformations occurring between the moment of burial and exhumation. A unique microenvironment is created by the soil and intermingling organisms during the decomposition process which is further altered by the presence of single or multiple bodies within a burial. This thesis was designed to clarify the distinction between mass grave and single grave decomposition rate by identifying the differences between factors affecting decomposition. The study required the experimental interment of five porcine (Sus scrofa Linnaeus) carcasses to simulate single and mass burials of human remains. Two animals were interred in two separate single burials and the remaining animals were placed in one mass burial. They remained buried from June to November 2012, during which time monthly soil samples were extracted and analyzed for nutrient content. Following exhumation, qualitative comparisons of the stages of decomposition and adipocere formation were developed using established scales. The results of this research can be utilized to establish an accurate postmortem interval (PMI) for mass graves and enhance the understanding of the factors affecting mass grave decomposition.
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