7 digs in total were conducted over a period of a year (at approximately 50 day intervals). At each dig 3 pigs and a control garment were recovered, the shrouds kept for analysis and the pigs reburied. The aim was to collect and analyse the data in both scientific and design contexts, in order to ultimately create burial garments which have a predictable rate of decomposition, and therefore a predictable expectation of garment transformation.
“It was at three hundred day mark after the initial burial that I began to notice a change in the way I experienced the recovered bodies. Not only had the garments begun to disintegrate in my hands, but the pigs themselves had dried up and begun to resemble soil. Ammonia had subsided and tissue remainders had become drier and resembled mud. With the wet muckiness of the tissue, so too had my intense disgust disappeared. I began to look at the remainders with far more enquiry and curiosity than I had been able to in earlier digs.
As the water in the grave had been wicked away or evaporated, the adipose tissue that had encapsulated the garment had dried up, and without this waxy layer, which had essentially protected the fibres, they rapidly succumbed to deterioration. This, in turn, meant that the pigs were undressed, and readily accessible by bacteria and other micro-organisms. The hemp was only visible in small pieces and would break into dust if over-handled. The silk too, would shatter if rubbed between two fingers, and was only found occasionally around the cording. The cording, being polyester, was still unbroken. Inspecting a sample under the microscope, none of the fibres were split: the only major difference between the unburied cord and the interred cord being the colouring; the buried cord taking on a dark, dirty brown pallor.”
“Before we reached the bodies during the final dig, we found ourselves pulling away lots of roots within each grave. Over the previous two months of burial, it seemed that plant life had infiltrated each pig and created a network of roots surrounding every one. When we finally reached each body, it was entirely riddled with roots. The water in the bodies had attracted plant life with its moisture. The garments were themselves entwined with roots, and it was ironic that I couldn’t easily find the polyester embroidery that was meant to mimic this process.”