This study analyzes the multiple factors affecting the decomposition of pigs in the Minnesota Winter/Early Spring within the first twelve weeks postmortem. The winters in the Minnesota River Valley can vary in regard to weather patterns and temperature changes. Adding the variable of location and accessibility to the study creates a mix of important research conducted in a less populated area. Pig carcasses were used in lieu of human remains to allow the data to be as close to a real scenario as possible. One pig was placed next to a farm site and the other about a half of a mile away next to a river. The second pig was scavenged by animals two weeks into the 60 days and therefore was replaced a few days later with a larger pig. This experiment was conducted from late January to early April. Quantifying the taphonomic effects and changes that occurred was one of the main methods used to analyze the data. The decomposition results show a correlation between the presence of precipitation, dips in humidity, and temperature to a slower rate of decomposition. A significant feature of this thesis is the result that the pig placed in a less populated area next to a river exhibited more advanced decomposition due to animal scavenging. Another noteworthy feature is that insects did not make an appearance until the twelfth week of data collection in early April. According to these results, the freeze thaw cycle has an observable effect on the rate of decomposition; the level of accessibility for animals also figured significantly in the rate of decomposition seen in this study.


Kathleen Blue

Committee Member

Kathryn Elliott

Committee Member

Thor Dahle

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Science (MS)

Program of Study



Humanities and Social Sciences



Rights Statement

In Copyright