Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Murray Marks

Committee Members

Richard Jantz, Walter Klippel


Several studies at the Anthropology Research Facility located at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, longitudinally examine the process of human decomposition. However, to date, no study has focused exclusively on clothing as a variable in this process. Furthermore, few studies have been performed using animal models. Recent research demonstrates conflicting results regarding the affect of clothing on decomposition. Some authors conclude that clothing accelerates decomposition, while others maintain that it retards the process. The goal of this study is two fold: first, the process of decomposition of clothed human subjects was documented; second, it was determined whether clothing accelerates or retards the process of decomposition. This was accomplished by comparing temperature, i.e., accumulated degree-days, for clothed cadavers with those of nude cadavers.

Over the course of one year, the cadavers of six unembalmed, unautopsied individuals were dressed in clothing and placed at the Anthropology Research Facility to decompose naturally. Subjects were observed and scored on a decomposition staging scale of I to IV. Accumulated degree days were then calculated and compared against values obtained from previous research utilizing nude cadavers. It was determined that clothing retards the process of decomposition in the spring and summer. Clothing was not a significant variable in the winter and no comparison was possible for cadavers used in the fall. This study demonstrates that the presence or absence of clothing must be appreciated and compensated for when making an estimate of time since death.

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Anthropology Commons