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Q and A Banner - #3 (World Records-1)

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Body Farm you ask?  Like a body, as in human body, and a farm, as in animal farm?
Yes!  That's the kind of farm I'm asking about!

The first specimens were unclaimed corpses from the police, but the farm's fame spread...

A body farm is a research facility, opened in 1981, 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. Body farm research is particularly important within forensic anthropology and related disciplines, and has applications in the fields of law enforcement and forensic science. Five 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.

Forensic anthropologist,
 Bill Bass
It all came about because of a colossal mistake: Bill Bass, professor of forensic anthropology at the University of Tennessee, got a corpse's time of death wrong by more than a century.

"This was Colonel Shy," the 80-year-old recalls with a grin. "He was killed in the Battle of Nashville in 1864, during the Civil War." But when his coffin was unearthed in the 1970s, Prof Bass found a body so well preserved that there was still pink tissue on the femur.

"He was embalmed with arsenic and buried in a cast-iron coffin that did not leak," he says. "Nobody had ever looked at arsenic as an embalming agent, nor at what happens to bodies in coffins. So my experience said this had to be somebody who died within the last six months."

It was a serious example of a growing problem. When helping the state police investigate bodies, Prof Bass found it was hard to work out how long they had been dead and became convinced there was a need to study bodies as they decompose.
So he took his ideas to the university, and was given land where he could study corpses - the Anthropology Research Facility, better known as "the Body Farm", and so the Body Farm was born.

"Ghoulish" scenario: The University of Tennessee's Anthropology Research Facility
studies human decomposition for information to help solve crimes.

There have been proposals to open body farms in other locations in the U.S. and elsewhere. Few of these have been successful as yet; for example, a facility in Las Vegas was proposed in 2003 but was unable to secure funding.

Roma Khan of India is taking initial steps toward establishing a body farm in India along the lines of those in the U.S.

Roma Khan conducting preliminary work on decomposition of cattle

Bodies for the farm are usually bodies unclaimed from the county morgue, donated by family or willed by the deceased.
Besides the farm 'trial' in India, the United States seems to be the only country in which such farms exist...  if there are others elsewhere, the scientists are surely not publishing their studies.
The original "Body Farm" is the University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility which was started in late 1971 by anthropologist William M. Bass.


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