• Long-term effects of hydrated lime and quicklime on the decay of human remains using pig cadavers as human body analogues

      Schotsmans, Eline M.J.; Fletcher, Jonathan N.; Denton, J.; Janaway, Robert C.; Wilson, Andrew S. (2014)
      An increased number of police enquiries involving human remains buried with lime have demonstrated the need for more research into the effect of different types of lime on cadaver decomposition and its micro-environment. This study follows previous studies by the authors who have investigated the effects of lime on the decay of human remains in laboratory conditions and 6 months of field experiments. Six pig carcasses (Sus scrofa), used as human body analogues, were buried without lime with hydrated lime (Ca(OH)2) and quicklime (CaO) in shallow graves in sandy-loam soil in Belgium and recovered after 17 and 42 months of burial. Analysis of the soil, lime and carcasses included entomology, pH, moisture content, microbial activity, histology and lime carbonation. The results of this study demonstrate that despite conflicting evidence in the literature, the extent of decomposition is slowed down by burial with both hydrated lime and quicklime. The more advanced the decay process, the more similar the degree of liquefaction between the limed and unlimed remains. The end result for each mode of burial will ultimately result in skeletonisation. This study has implications for the investigation of clandestine burials, for a better understanding of archaeological plaster burials and potentially for the interpretation of mass graves and management of mass disasters by humanitarian organisation and DVI teams.