Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Anthropology (Forensic Anthropology Option)

Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Dr. Randall R. Skelton

Commitee Members

Dr. Kirsten Green, Dr. Christopher Palmer


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Anthropology | Biological and Physical Anthropology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Dissolving bodies is a contemporary method of disposing human remains and has been practiced throughout the years. In popular media, criminals attempt to dispose of their victims by using various chemicals to dissolve the corpses. There is an immense gap in the literature pertaining to this research, so this present study aims to combat the lack of information on the topic. This research investigates the effects of sodium hydroxide (NaOH), generally known as lye or caustic soda, a common household chemical, on human tissues and bone by using an animal analogue (domestic pig, Sus scrofa domesticus). Four dissimilar deposition environments were tested during this study to determine the differential decomposition rates while exposed to sodium hydroxide. Over time, the appearance, consistency and temperature of all specimens were documented. After 60 days, the specimens were removed from their respective totes so various analyses could be performed on the remaining tissues. Numerous results were observed, but most notably one of the pigs underwent substantial decomposition, while the other three specimens did not. These results demonstrate how the combination of different deposition environments and the facilitation of sodium hydroxide can have diverse effects on tissue, skin, bone, nails and hair.



© Copyright 2018 Hayley Savage