Late Stage Decomposition of Embalmed Cadavers
Taphonomy from Cementerio Sur de Madrid
Keywords:Human decomposition, embalming, late post-mortem changes, late-stage decomposition, forensic anthropology, taphonomy
Decomposition is a natural process that begins approximately four minutes after death and continues until the body is degraded to simpler biochemical components which are gradually recycled back to the environment. This process is dependent on extrinsic and intrinsic factors. Embalming is a chemical preservation technique that aims to preserve the external appearance of the body in good condition for an indeterminate period. In Spain, there is a lack of experimental studies carried out to analyse the variables that affect decomposition in embalmed bodies, therefore, in accordance with the conclusions reached by previous authors, it is hypothesised that embalmed bodies show quantifiable characteristics during the late stage decomposition which distinguish them from control, unembalmed, cadavers. An anthropological and statistical analysis was performed on 14 individuals from Cementerio Sur de Madrid exhumed after ten years according to the Mortuary Health Law of the Autonomous Region of Madrid. The preliminary results obtained showed that there is a qualitative and statistically significant relationship between the variables evaluated, being the presence or absence of soft tissue the most notable difference. The mortuary or thanatopraxy treatments performed before the burial and the microenvironmental conditions of the burial positively influence the soft tissue preservation on embalmed bodies. These results contribute to the understanding about the decomposition rate of an embalmed cadavers in cemeteries, and the related extrinsic variables.
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