A body farm is a research facility where human decomposition can be studied in a variety of settings. The aim is to gain a better understanding of the decomposition process, permitting the development of techniques for extracting information (such as the timing and circumstances of death) from human remains.Four such facilities exist in the United States, with the research facility operated by Texas State University at Freeman Ranch being the largest at seven acres.
The original "Body Farm" is the University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility located a few miles from downtown on Alcoa Highway in Knoxville, Tennessee, behind the University of Tennessee Medical Center. It was first started in late 1981 by anthropologist Dr. William M. Bass as a facility for study of the decomposition of human remains. Dr. Bass became head of the university's anthropology department in 1971, and as official state forensic anthropologist for Tennessee he was frequently consulted in police cases involving decomposed human remains. Since no facilities existed that specifically studied decomposition, in 1981 he opened the department's first body farm. It consists of a 2.5-acre wooded plot, surrounded by a razor wire fence. At any one time there will be a number of bodies 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 sequence and speed of decomposition and the effects of insect activity. Over 100 bodies are donated to the facility every year.
|A good example of mummification in the dry Tennessee weather.|
|Taking heat samples from a maggot mass.|
|Hand next to its skeletonized counterpart|
|Postmortem insect activity|
|'Fresh' corpse showing livor mortis(blood pooling) indicating he was lying on his back for awhile before he was placed.|
|Examples of various animal activity on bone|
|The skeletonization of this body only took two weeks. The bodies are kept under tarps to help them decompose faster.|
|The smooth sheared edges of this skull indicates that an autopsy took place before they were brought to the facility.|
|Brain surgery of some kind. The large gaps between the removed plate and the skull indicate that the surgery was probably not terribly successful as the bone would have begun to fill in the gaps as it healed.|
|A mummified corpse|
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