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Moisture Content in Decomposing, Desiccated, and Mummified Human Tissue

Autumn Lennartz, Michelle D. Hamilton, Russell Weaver


Due to the nature of mummification, tissue that has been significantly desiccated may never reach the advanced stages of decomposition. This research measured the moisture content of five donated individuals placed at the Forensic Anthropology Research Facility at Texas State University over a period of nearly three months. Moisture-content readings were taken from 20 sites on each body on a daily basis and then analyzed through multilevel modeling with temperature, humidity, solar radiation, and precipitation. This study found that desiccation appears to follow a consistent, asymptotic pattern and that temperature is the most influential environmental factor affecting moisture content. This study shows the viability for a postmortem interval estimation method based on accumulated degree-days and moisture content.


forensic anthropology, mummification, desiccation, postmortem interval, taphonomy

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