Body Farms

by K-Dean

Bodies on a body farm are placed in a variety of settings to test their decomposition, trunks of cars, houses and even water.

Body farms are research facilities where scientists can study human decomposition in a variety of settings. The purpose of body farms is for students to gain a better understanding of the decomposition process, and develop techniques for extracting information. By studying human remains, it is possible to figure out the time of death as well as cause of death. Body farm research is particularly important within forensics and fields of law enforcement. Body farms are teaching scientists how to study the ground around human remains for evidence, soil acidity can indicate how long a body has been leeching fluids into the earth. Another aspect of determining time of death is learning how weather affects remains. Scientists learn the effects of putrefaction by a hot, desert sun and how a decomposing body can be disrupted by scavenging animals.

There are five body farms in the United States:

University of Tennessee at Knoxville

The original Body Farm is the University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility. It was first started in late 1981 by anthropologists William M. Bass and Bill Rodriguez as a facility for study of the decomposition of human remains. Dr. William M. Bass was the official state forensic anthropologist for Tennessee and was frequently consulted in police cases involving decomposed human remains. There are over 100 bodies donated to the facility each year. The facility has 2.5-acres of land, surrounded by a razor wire fence. Bodies are placed in different settings throughout the facility and left to decompose. The bodies are exposed in a number of ways in order to provide insights into decomposition under varying conditions. Detailed observations and records of the decomposition process are kept, including the speed of decomposition and the effects of insect and animal activity.

Western Carolina University

Another facility in the United States is located at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina. It was opened in 2006 and is run by the university’s Forensic Anthropology program on a small plot on the rural mountain campus. The facility is very small, and can only accommodate six bodies at a time.

Texas State University

The Forensic Anthropology Research Facility is a human decomposition research laboratory where questions related to outdoor crime scenes and decomposition rates for human remains under various topographical and climate conditions are investigated. The facility serves as a resource for students of forensic anthropology as well as state and national law enforcement agencies. Vultures which originally created problems for the location of the research facility have now provided a new area of study on the effect of vulture scavenging on human decomposition.

Sam Houston State University

The Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility is a research and training facility designed to teach students, law enforcement officials, and forensic specialists the skills to solve crime scenes.

The facility has one acre of maximum security fencing that surrounds the outdoor research facility with an additional 8 acres of minimum security reserved for other types of forensic training such as search and recovery maneuvers. The building is designed as a morgue with cooler and freezer units, modern morgue equipment and tools and digital radiograph and microscope capabilities.

California University of Pennsylvania

The Institute of Criminological and Forensic Sciences at California University of Pennsylvania is a remote criminal investigative and forensic anthropological research facility located approximately 45 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. The site is used for training and research in the areas of crime scene investigation and forensic anthropology.

Read more:

Body farm | Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

HowStuffWorks | “How Body Farms Work”


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