Taphonomy of Child-sized Remains in Shallow Grave and Surface Deposit Scenarios
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Forensic anthropologists occasionally encounter remains of children in various burial scenarios. These remains are often discovered in shallow grave or surface deposit environments, and are often covered with a blanket or sheet. This study examines these variables. The taphonomic processes in each of these settings occur at different rates; therefore, it is important to understand the effect on the estimation of the postmortem interval. This study involves a sample of child-size pig carcasses wrapped in baby blankets. Some of the pigs were buried in a shallow grave and periodically examined on-site to document stages in the taphonomic processes. One pig carcass was deposited on the surface and it was also examined for taphonomic changes, including scavenger activity that occurred.
As expected, scavenger activity was present on the surface deposit carcass, but the depth of the shallow burials also permitted scavenger activity. Observations of the types of bones remaining and their distances from the graves, amount of commingling, and other taphonomic details were recorded and analyzed.