The fascinating process of human decomposition

The fascinating process of human decomposition


Last month I visited a body farm in Texas.
So these are places where researchers take recently deceased human bodies and they essentially
just leave them out to decompose. So this research, mainly it’s helpful when law enforcement
come across a body under mysterious circumstances, maybe a murder, and they want to know how
long has it been out here. The bodies are scattered all over the field. They have about
50 out and most of them are under these metal cages that prevent the vultures from getting
in. I kept asking him to lift up the cages for me to get better photos. So what happens
right after you die is all the fluids that are inside your cells when you’re alive leak
out and bacteria start feeding immediately. There converting the liquids and solids inside
you into gasses that they emit, and this causes the second stage, which is bloat. You also
have something called marbling during this stage because one of the gases, sulfur, binds
to the hemoglobin molecules in your blood and changes the color of them to an orange
or yellow. And at the same time, flies come. They come almost immediately when the body
is placed, and they lay eggs. And they especially lay them in any orifices, so your head will
get a lot of maggots on it — the eye sockets and mouth and nose, and they’ll eat away at
that first. They’re absolutely just crawling all over the body, like, getting up really
close to it and taking photos was the most intense thing I did there. Then after a few
days of that, the body moves to the third stage, which is called purge. And that’s ultimately
the bloating is relieved as a lot of the gas and fluids leak out and you see this dark
fluid pooling around the body. And the interesting thing is that fluid is really nutrient rich,
but it’s so rich in nitrogen that it kills off the plants initially. But a year later,
it’ll become especially fertile. So here this is the next stage. A lot of the changes happen
really rapidly at first, and then it slows down a lot. There’s certainly still bacteria
here, but if you were to graph all the nutrients, it’s a very sharp decline. If the body is
in the sun, especially in Texas, the heat is so strong that a lot of bacteria and insects
can’t actually survive. And so instead of continuing to decompose the body, it will
really gradually mummify — it’ll just dry up. But if the body is in the shade, then
the bacteria and insects can continue to feed on it and they’ll essentially eat it down
to a skeleton. With the vultures, the process is completely different because a flock of
them will just swarm a body immediately if it’s left uncaged, and they can eat pretty
much all of the flesh off within a few hours. One of the things that really fascinated me
is the way that the bones are frayed. And that’s from their beaks ripping at it voraciously.
And that looks like leather or clothing, but it’s skin. Typically they’re left out to decompose
for 6 to 12 months. So when the bodies come in, they’ll boil them and they put detergent
on them and that strips away most of the remaining flesh. And then volunteer undergraduate interns
will clean every single bone with a toothbrush. The smell was actually the strongest inside
that lab. It smells like rotting meat, which is essentially what it is — you know, just
organic substances that have gone bad. And then after they get clean they get laid back
out, they get labeled, and then they get sent to the lab closer into town where they get
boxed up. And so this basically serves as a contemporary skeleton collection, which
there aren’t that many of, as it turns out. We really seldom see bodies anymore in our
modern culture. Most people die in a hospital. They get directly sent to a funeral home.
That funeral home injects them with formaldehyde and puts makeup all over them, so they don’t
look like a dead body. But the truth is that ultimately, whether we see it or not, this
happens. Unless you get cremated, it’s going to happen to you. I mean, that’s what ecosystems
evolved to do — is harvest nutrients to create new life.

100 thoughts on “The fascinating process of human decomposition

  1. For years, I always said I wanted burial. Then, I discovered just what takes place when a body is prepared for viewing at a funeral home, & how long it takes a body to completely decompose after burial. I now have decided to be cremated. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

  2. That was very interesting. I wish I had the brains and will to be a mortician. I remember reading about Johnathan Davis from Korn attending mortuary school. The stories were enlightening. He never completed it.

  3. The thing that really grosses me out is the maggots 🤮 I can handle a lot of things but I can't help but squirm when see the wriggling maggots

  4. Wonder who that dead person is for them to agree to have their corpse lie on the ground and decompose like that.

  5. My grandmother died two days back. For real. She was 107 years old. So, her mummification process had already started a long time ago.

  6. “Death, from which you are running away from, will certainly catch up with you. Then you will be returned to the Knower of the Unseen and the Visible (i.e. Allah) and He will inform you about what you did.”Qur’an 62:8
    “Every soul shall taste death.” Qur’an 29:57

    "Wheresoever you may be, death will overtake you even if you are in fortresses built up strong and high!" Qur’an 4:78
    “Did you think that We (God) created you in play (without any purpose), and that you would not be brought back to Us (God)?”Qur’an 23:115
    Indeed death is a strong reminder…..

  7. Am I the only one thinking this might be a bad thing to do?

    We'll pay you $2k for your friend's body in order to experiment and document how it decomposes

  8. I think it would be great if my support worker Bella Hoskins got herself Surrounded by ghoulish rotted
    corpses that all take hold of her and cover her in purple ooze making her very gooey and make this worse lots of flys land on her making her feel nasty.

  9. Fascinating.

    Personally, I love that we can do this. It is important and where we all end up.

    Alkaline Hydrolysis for me!

  10. I’ve seen this process but in a cat, there’s this dead cat on the sidewalk that I pass by everyday coming from school and like it’s been there for almost a month now, it was disgusting at the beginning but then you get used to seeing it.

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