Forensic Science the Body Farms

Body farm is a concept originated at the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Research Facility in 1980 following the ideals of pioneering forensic anthropologist William Bass. It refers to a facility which allows human bodies to decompose in various controlled environments in order to study the varying nature of the decomposition process. The concept is considered to be a breakthrough in Forensic sciences as it contributed immensely in solving mysteries related to decomposed bodies as well as to the field of ‘forensic anthropology.’

Where is the body farms located?

According to available records, there are about 5 body farms in the United States and these are located in University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Western Carolina University, Texas State University, Sam Houston State University and at California University of Pennsylvania. Among them, the largest body farm belongs to the Texas University and is estimated to be around 7 acres in size.

How does a body farm receive corpses?

There are two ways in which a body farm can receive the corpses for study and these are the donations made after a person’s death through the deceased person’s next of kin and the bodies given to the facility for further forensic studies through law enforcement authorities.

What happens after receiving bodies by a body farm?

The bodies given to a body farm will be allowed to decompose under controlled environments which need to be mimicking the decomposition states of corpses at a crime scene. In certain instances, these environments are created for research purposes as it can give valuable insights to forensic pathologists regarding determining the time and the circumstances of death in relation to a recovered dead body.

What are the things that can be studied in relation to a corpse at these facilities?

Once a body is allowed to decompose, the scientists will document the changes taking place in the corpus such as peeling of the skin, bloating, changes in the skin appearance, appearance of maggots, presence of various bugs, bacteria and other organisms in the decomposing body, the time elapsed for such changes to take place, and even the smell of the decomposing body. These recordings will be made in a scientific manner and later will be published in reputed journals. Therefore, such findings will not only be recognized at a court proceeding but will provide valuable insight to other researchers in many different fields as well.

At the same time, understanding how various environments such as hot, humid, cold and dry will affect the decomposing body is another important use of such body farms.

What are the controversies surrounding body farms?

Although these research facilities provide some valuable insight as to what takes place after a person dies, it does have its own controversies. One of these is the notion that, body farms do not provide the dead the respect they deserve. However, body farms adhere to strict regulations in its acceptance of bodies with the consent of the deceased person’s relatives while providing the dead with a proper burial once the observations are complete.