Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

William Bass

Committee Members

Richard Jantz, Randall Bressee


This study focuses on how a single layer of clothing affects-human decomposition, and if human decomposition-has a noticeable affect on clothing materials. Two cadavers were placed at the Anthropological Research Facility in Knoxville, TN on January 16, 1991. One was clothed, the other was nude. Seven different types of yarns were attached to the inside of the clothing on the experimental subject, and another set of these yarns was anchored to the base of nearby tree to serve as a control sample set.

Cadavers were monitored as they decomposed, and insect activity was observed, from January 16, 1991 until May 4, 1991. The National Weather Service provided daily high and low temperatures. Yarn samples were collected from January 16, 1991 until November 5, 1991 and examined visually, and fibers from the yarns were examined microscopically for mechanical/structural deterioration, and breaking strengths were measured.

The clothed cadaver (EXP) decomposed more quickly than the nude cadaver (CTL) did. EXP reached bloating and active decay almost twice as quickly as did CTL, probably because the garment facilitated the growth and development of carrion insects which are responsible for much of the destruction of the remains.

Fibers from experimental and control yarns showed little or no structural or mechanicai damage microscopically or visually. Breaking strength tests indicated that the yarns responded differentially to human decomposition. However, larger sample sizes and a longer period of research will offer clearer answers.

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Anthropology Commons