Forensic anthropologists rely on forensic evidence to estimate the postmortem interval of a decedent. This may include the study of the degree of deterioration of the human body, the life stage of insects, and the degradation of associated material evidence. Material evidence comes in many forms, and certain taphonomic processes will affect the material and must be considered when making inferences about a PMI. These include variables such as the characteristics of the soil, microorganisms, and the presence of a decaying organic material. Previous research has undertaken studies in how fabric degrades over time; however, there is no standard methodology in use. The purpose of this research project is to establish a comprehensive scoring system and description standard after analyzing the degradation of four different fabric types. This will be useful for future studies in need of a standard methodology. In addition, the methods used in this project can be applied to actual forensic cases. After retrieval, the fabric type with the highest degradation was the cotton with about 1/3 of all cotton fabric swatches demonstrating more than 50% total degradation. For all fabric types, swatches that were positioned flat tended to degrade more than those that were positioned crumpled. Cotton fabric swatches degraded more in Trench 1 and Trench 2 than the Ground Surface, however, all other fabric types demonstrated slightly more degradation on the Ground Surface than the other two Areas. Soil moisture fluctuated the most on the Ground Surface while Trench 1 and Trench 2 were able to retain more water in the soil. Overall, cotton was the only fabric type to degrade significantly enough to show how it degrades over time, while the other fabric types have longer degradation intervals that must be studied further.
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Schultz, John J.
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
College of Sciences
Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences; Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic
Length of Campus-only Access
Honors in the Major Thesis
Humbert, Lorraine L., "A Preliminary Study for Estimating Postmortem Interval of Fabric Degradation in Central Florida" (2013). HIM 1990-2015. 1530.