Taphonomy of HairA Study of Postmortem Root Banding


Additional information and reprint requests:

Amy L. Michaud, B.S.

Forensic Examiner

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives

National Laboratory Center

6000 Ammendale Road

Beltsville, MD 20705

E-mails: amy.l.michaud@usdoj.gov; amy.michaud@atf.gov


Although it has been generally accepted within the forensic hair community that decompositional changes in the form of an identifiable banding pattern can occur in the root area of hairs after death, little detailed information with regard to this phenomenon is known (e.g., rates at which this occurs and conditions that cause this banding). Hairs were collected daily from bodies placed in water, an air-conditioned environment, an enclosed vehicle, on the surface of the ground, and buried at the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Center. The hairs were examined microscopically and the level of change documented for each environment. The onset of the banding was observed to have been delayed in water, air-conditioning, and cold weather and was hastened by warm weather and within the vehicle. This study provides validation that decomposition does produce varying effects on hair at the proximal portion of a hair root, including a dark band.