Effects of hydrated lime and quicklime on the decay of buried human remains using pig cadavers as human body analogues
Received 4 March 2011; received in revised form 29 April 2011; accepted 27 September 2011. published online 26 October 2011.
Recent casework in Belgium involving the search for human remains buried with lime, demonstrated the need for more detailed understanding of the effect of different types of lime on cadaver decomposition and its micro-environment. Six pigs (Sus scrofa) were used as body analogues in field experiments. They were buried without lime, with hydrated lime (Ca(OH)2) and with quicklime (CaO) in shallow graves in sandy loam soil in Belgium and recovered after 6months of burial. Observations from these field recoveries informed additional laboratory experiments that were undertaken at the University of Bradford, UK. The combined results of these studies demonstrate that despite conflicting evidence in the literature, hydrated lime and quicklime both delay the decay of the carcass during the first 6months. This study has implications for the investigation of clandestine burials and for a better understanding of archaeological plaster burials. Knowledge of the effects of lime on decomposition processes also has bearing on practices involving burial of animal carcasses and potentially the management of mass graves and mass disasters by humanitarian organisations and DVI teams.
Keywords: Taphonomy, Pig cadavers, Lime, Differential decomposition, Desiccation, Histology