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Cremation Weights in East Tennessee

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 49 Issue: 5 Dated: September 2004 Pages: 901-904
William M. Bass Ph.D.; Richard L. Jantz Ph.D.
Date Published
September 2004
4 pages
This research adds to the limited literature on the weights of cremated remains (cremains) and their variation.
Between December 6, 2002, and July 23, 2003, cremains weights were recorded for 151 males and 155 females cremated at the East Tennessee Cremation Company in Maryville, TN. All weights were measured on an OHAUS digital scale, Model CS5000, which measures in 1 g increments from 0 to 5,000. Age, sex, and race were determined for each subject. It was not possible to obtain precremation weights, but unusually heavy individuals were identified. This article describes the cremation process in detail, along with the collection and packaging of the cremains. The weights of the cremains of the sexes differed by approximately 1,000 g, with weight distributions within each sex being distinctive, especially in the older ages. The significant weight difference by sex raises the issue of whether sex could be determined from the weight of cremains. The East Tennessee cremation weights were compared with cremation weights from similar studies in Florida (Warren and Maples) and California (Sonek), as well as a previous study on ash weight of anatomical human skeletons by Trotter and Hixon. The weight of the East Tennessee cremains were about 500 g more than the samples from Florida and California and approximately the same as the Trotter and Hixon anatomical samples. The findings of the current study indicate that cremains weights vary significantly, perhaps regionally, but there is insufficient evidence to specify any particular pattern of variation. The causes of variation are currently unknown, but for future studies the authors hypothesize that cremains weights vary according to body weight and activity, which affect bone mass. 4 tables, 1 figure, and 10 references