Post-mortem hair root degradation, and associated characteristics such as post-mortem root banding, brush-like ends, and hard keratin points, has remained a little understood phenomenon in the forensics discipline since its discovery in the 1800's. At present, the underlying causes of these characteristics are still unknown. In addition, there is no standardization for preparing samples for forensic or archaeological analysis. In this study, 1200 hairs from a total of 51 individuals (males, n = 22; females, n = 29) ranging in age from 16 to 60+ and interred at the Kellis 2 cemetery in the Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt are examined microscopically for evidence of post-mortem hair root degradation. These remains date from ~50AD to ~450AD, and all were naturally mummified. The purposes of this thesis are two-fold; 1) to determine the efficacy of two preparation methods, and 2) to examine the intrinsic and extrinsic variables in each hair in order to ascertain the factors that affect the degradation of the human hair root after death. The preparation methods include a dry sample, where the hair is directly removed from the scalp tissue using tweezers, and a wet sample, where a 1cm portion of the scalp was first rehydrated using dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) for 48 hours before the hairs were extracted. Results indicate that when working with naturally mummified remains the wet method provides for easier acquisition of the sample and less chance of breakage before the hair is mounted for observation. This, therefore, provides a larger sample size for analysis. Each hair was observed using polarizing microscopy to determine whether postmortem root degradation was present, the growth stage of the hair, color, pigment density and distribution, pigment aggregate size and shape, medulla continuity and opacity, cuticle scale profile and thickness, inner cuticle margin, and the presence of ovoid bodies. Significant correlations were found between the incidence of postmortem root degradation and the growth stage, hair color, cuticle thickness, cuticle scale profile, and individual's age. The remaining variables did not show any significant correlations.
Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Cole, Kathleen, "Intrinsic Factors Affecting Decomposition Changes in Archaeological Head Hair from Kellis 2 Cemetery, Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt" (2017). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 5351.