The Fascinating Process of Human Decomposition
Body farms are intriguing places. They are the only place where we can legally observe the decay of a human being in an age where death is either hidden or kept far removed from most of the public, and remains are disposed of as quickly as possible. Death is a dirty, scary thing to most people, and we’ve forgotten that for most of our history, witnessing death and decomposition was a frequent and accepted occurrence. Before we developed special systems to deal with the masses of dying people, we would see our neighbors, friends and family at death’s door, and once they had passed through it. What was once a celebrated event, done openly for the world to see, is now hush hush and taboo to speak of; and if you are interested in it, many people will wonder if all is right in your head. The short documentary below from Vox inspired this train of thought in me as they explore the Texas State University’s Forensic Anthropology Research Facility (FARF), a 26-acre body farm, the largest human decomposition research facility in the world. Opened in 2008, FARF has already watched 150 bodies slowly decay on their grounds, with another 200 in the pipeline (ie. still alive). This short documentary outlines the stages of decomposition, complete with stomach-churning images and description (I also included some gross photos of bodies at FARF below). While I do find the death and decay of human beings compelling and natural, don’t get me wrong – I’m not advocating for a return to the old “dump the body on your street for the gravediggers to cart away” times. There are good public health reasons for the way we do it today. But I do think it’s important to discuss death, and how the decaying human body starts a whole other food chain, eventually nourishing the earth and making fertile ground for vegetation. Our part in the system is not limited to life, we are in Earth’s cycle from conception to decomposition.