15 September 2014

Learn about human decomposition at a "body farm"

"Excarnation in Texas" is an essay exploring a body farm in Texas.  This isn't the body farm I'm familiar with in Tennessee, but it serves a similar purpose:
Kate, an associate professor at Texas State University in San Marcos, does most of her work at their Forensic Anthropology Center (FACTS)—the centerpiece of which is the Forensic Anthropology Research Facility (FARF), the largest of America’s five “body farms.” Including Kate, FACTS has three full-time researchers, a rotating crew of anthropology graduate students and undergraduate volunteers, and a steady influx of cadaver donations from both individuals and their next of kin—brought in from Texas hospitals, hospices, medical examiners’ offices, and funeral homes. When I arrive, Kate is helping lead a weeklong forensics workshop for undergrads, spread out across five excavation sites where skeletal remains have been buried to simulate “crime scenes.”...

While grad students carry out the “intake” and “placement” of the bodies outdoors, about twenty-five undergrads volunteer to process the remains for free, from disarticulating the sun-dried cadavers to soaking them in the kettles to scrubbing the last bits of cartilage off with their gloved hands. They remove tendons with hemostats and toothbrushes, then they wash the bones again by hand, adding Dawn if still greasy. Finally, they leave them out on countertops to dry...

Perhaps surprisingly, his immediate reaction to the photos, and the details of the research—scientists “captured the vultures jumping up and down on the woman’s body, breaking some of her ribs”—was one of pride. “Just the amount of damage done to the body—it was hours, literally hours, and it was clean,” he says. “It was just this huge amount of unthought-of information.” In his enthusiasm, Ted posted a link on Facebook saying, “Hey, look! Mom got eaten by vultures! Awesome!” 

In a third-grade classroom at her elementary school, Mary was online and saw the note from her youngest brother. She clicked on the link—and had a typical Robinson family reaction: “I was like ‘Oh, cool! They’re talking about her!’” Then she saw the pictures. “And it was ‘Oh, there’s Mom’s face! There’s her teeth! Oh, there’s her ribs! Oh, wow.’”

Mary was deeply hurt when her friends and colleagues at work were unable to relate to her excitement at the news. “I have just hit revulsion, revulsion, revulsion—and it’s very lonely and hard. This is awesome—but it’s so out-of-the-box, there’s no paradigm. That’s your mom? What?
Much more at the interesting link.

1 comment:

  1. If you like this, you'll love Stiff: http://www.amazon.com/Stiff-Curious-Lives-Human-Cadavers/dp/0393324826


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