Year of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Anthropology (Forensic Anthropology Option)

Department or School/College

Department of Anthropology

Committee Chair

Randall Skelton

Commitee Members

Ashley McKeown, Dave Dyer


Burn patterns, Forensic Anthropology, Forensic Taphonomy


University of Montana


Forensic anthropologists can analyze burn patterns on a victim’s body to infer the position of the body during a fire. The analysis of burn patterns in relation to position around time of death can potentially provide information to investigators about the events surrounding an individual’s death. This study seeks to examine the similarities and differences in the direction of burn patterns on a body that is hanging up compared to a body lying flat on the floor. Two deceased pigs were used as specimens in this study. The pigs were burned under identical conditions expect that one was hanging and the other was lying on the floor. This study found that there were differences in burn patterns between the two specimens. The specimen hanging up exhibited a black charring pattern that covered over 90 percent of the body. The floor specimen exhibited a different discoloration pattern, from tan, to dark brown, to a light grey color on the exposed surface. The surface lying against the floor exhibited little to no discoloration and exhibited an outline on the body that was reflective of its position lying against the floor. These findings are important because the floor specimen is consistent with what previous scholars have found in relation to the severity of burn patterns in individuals that have been positioned on the surface. The floor specimen experienced lower overall temperatures than did the hanging specimen positioned at midline and above. The Pairwise t- test showed that there were significant differences in temperature at different distances from the floor. Overall, these results show how bodies at different locations and positions can be affected differently by heat, flames, and oxygen, which affects the pattern of burns on a body. Overall, these findings are important because investigators could potentially use this information to determine if a body was originally placed in the position in which it was recovered.

This record is only available
to users affiliated with
the University of Montana.

Request Access



© Copyright 2013 Amanda Williams