Scoring of Decomposition: A Proposed Amendment to the Method When Using a Pig Model for Human Studies

Natalie Keough, Jolandie Myburgh, Maryna Steyn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Decomposition studies often use pigs as proxies for human cadavers. However, differences in decomposition sequences/rates relative to humans have not been scientifically examined. Descriptions of five main decomposition stages (humans) were developed and refined by Galloway and later by Megyesi. However, whether these changes/processes are alike in pigs is unclear. Any differences can have significant effects when pig models are used for human PMI estimation. This study compared human decomposition models to the changes observed in pigs. Twenty pigs (50–90 kg) were decomposed over five months and decompositional features recorded. Total body scores (TBS) were calculated. Significant differences were observed during early decomposition between pigs and humans. An amended scoring system to be used in future studies was developed. Standards for PMI estimation derived from porcine models may not directly apply to humans and may need adjustment. Porcine models, however, remain valuable to study variables influencing decomposition.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)986-993
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2017


  • accumulated degree days
  • forensic anthropology
  • forensic science
  • human decomposition
  • postmortem interval
  • taphonomy
  • total body score


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