- 1 How many years does it take for an embalmed body to decompose?
- 2 How long do human bones last in a grave?
- 3 Do embalmed bodies decay?
- 4 Why do some bodies not decompose?
- 5 What does a buried embalmed body look like after 1 year?
- 6 Why do embalmed bodies feel hard?
- 7 Why do bodies look different at funerals?
- 8 Why do they cross the arms of the dead?
- 9 How long does it take for an embalmed body to decompose in a coffin in a mausoleum?
How many years does it take for an embalmed body to decompose?
How long does it take for human remains interred in coffins to decompose? What if the body is embalmed? (Image credit: Ashley Cooper via Getty Images) The moment a person dies, their body begins to break down as cells wither and bacteria invade. But how long does it take for a body to fully decompose? Although the process of decomposition starts within minutes of death, there are a number of variables, including the ambient temperature, soil acidity and coffin materials, which can affect how long it takes a body to skeletonize,
However, on average, a body buried within a typical coffin usually starts to break down within a year, but takes up to a decade to fully decompose, leaving only the skeleton, Daniel Wescott, director of the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State University, told Live Science. A body buried without a coffin, which doesn’t have protection from insects and other elements, typically skeletonizes within five years, according to Nicholas Passalacqua, an associate professor at the Forensic Osteology Research Station at Western Carolina University.
Decomposition itself is fairly straightforward. Once death occurs and oxygenated blood stops flowing, cells die; in a process called autolysis, cells release enzymes (especially those from the lysosomes, which contain digestive enzymes), which break down the cells themselves, as well as carbohydrates and proteins, according to ” The Cell: A Molecular Approach,” (Sinauer Associates, 2000).
Putrefaction, or the decomposition of organic matter without oxygen by bacteria, fungi or other organisms, can turn parts of a body’s skin green about 18 hours after death, according to the book ” Evaluation of Postmortem Changes ” (StatPearls Publishing, 2022). This occurs simultaneously as bacteria in the abdomen rapidly multiply, creating gases that cause the body to bloat and smell.
Putrefaction speeds up when the body is in a hot environment, which is why human remains are often kept in refrigerators until it’s time for burial. Related: What’s the deadliest month of the year? During this bloating stage, the skin can slip and blister and marbling can occur, in which greenish-black blood vessels can be seen through the skin within about 24 to 48 hours of death, according to “Evaluation of Postmortem Change.” Eventually, the bloat collapses, and in a process known as black putrefaction, the body’s organs and tissues soften, and life forms such as insects and microbes eat the remaining soft tissues, leaving the skeletal remains.
“Decomposition significantly slows down at this stage, and it takes years or decades for the skeletal remains to disintegrate,” according to “Evaluation of Postmortem Changes.” To delay decay, embalmers can drain the blood and other fluids from a corpse and replace it with embalming fluids they inject into the veins.
These chemicals, which act as preservatives, stop the bacterial activity that breaks down the body. Although embalming is a common practice, some religions forbid it because it is considered a desecration of the body. “If they’re embalmed, it can really change things,” Wescott told Live Science.
As an example, he pointed to the case of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, who was buried in 1963 after being embalmed. When his body was exhumed for evidence in a 1991 murder trial, Wescott said, “his body was so well preserved that they let his son in to see him.” For those who are embalmed and buried in a coffin, five to 10 years is a more typical decomposition timeline, he said.
At that point, the tissue is gone and only bones remain. The quality of the embalming job also plays a role, Wescott said. When he exhumed an embalmed body buried 15 years before exhumation, he discovered that it had skeletonized in part because the coffin had broken down.
- Another embalmed body he exhumed had been buried only a year, and “she looked like she just died, but had some mold growing on her,” he recalled.
- Location can have an impact, too.
- If a casket is buried in acidic soil, it will erode faster, exposing the body to the elements, including insects, which abet the decomposition process.
There are a few other factors most people don’t think about, Wescott said. In an outdoor setting, obese people initially decompose more rapidly in the beginning, but slow down compared with others later in the process because maggots prefer muscle tissue over fat.
- Chemotherapy and antibiotics used prior to death also can have a huge impact on decay, because both kill off some of the bacteria involved in the process.
- As odd as it sounds, the coffin’s liner might also have an influence on the pace of decomposition, Wescott said.
- Some materials wick fluid away from the body and could cause it to dry out, and even mummify more quickly.
If the material holds moisture, the body could become soaked in its own fluids and decompose more quickly. Stay up to date on the latest science news by signing up for our Essentials newsletter. David Volk is a Seattle-based freelance journalist/humorist whose credits include Reuters, USA Today, fodors.com and a variety of alumni magazines.
What does a body look like after 2 years in a casket?
Opening a Casket After 2 Years –
- After 2 years of burial, the body’s appearance may have changed significantly compared to 1 year after burial.
- The body’s core tissues – such as internal organs – will have undergone more extensive breakdown, leaving behind empty cavities in the body.
- Factors such as temperature, moisture, and the presence of insects can significantly influence the rate of decomposition at this stage.
What does a body look like after 2 months in a coffin?
What happens with the body in casket after 2 months? – Dead bodies inside caskets undergo four stages, including active decay and skeletonization. For instance, a corpse will undergo self-digestion or Autolysis, which is the first decomposition phase. Enzymes develop in the body, which eats body cells. These enzymes also play a crucial role in the second stage (Bloating) which usually occurs after 3 to 5 days.
Is the brain removed during embalming?
Q2. Are organs removed during embalming? – NO. Embalming doesn’t remove any organ in the body. Instead, the embalmer replaces the blood with embalming fluid – formaldehyde-based chemicals – through the arteries. For this reason, an embalmed body placed in a casket can last for many years.
Does the body decompose faster if not embalmed?
M y mother died of breast cancer, After two years of illness and major surgery, she had become gaunt. Her hair was almost gone. Her skin was yellowed. Her limbs were swollen. The day after she died, I took my father to the funeral home, where he bought the most expensive coffin available.
The mortician assured him it was waterproof. Two days later, after my mother had been embalmed, we returned. I started to walk into the Slumber Room. I could see my mother in the coffin across the room, and for one very long and strange moment, I thought she was alive again. She looked better than she had for years.
Her skin was pink and smooth; her hair, nicely groomed. Even her fingernails were done, and she had a very small smile on her face. I knew she was dead. I really did. I had seen her death coming for years and worked through the pain to accept it. But at that moment, I thought she might sit up and look at me, and a lot of my hard-won acceptance was lost.
- More than thirty years later, I still resent what was done to her, and to me.
- The experience left me wondering, If we grieve because the person we loved has died, why do we so often make a dead person appear alive? The common practice of embalming has one purpose: it slows the decomposition of a dead body so that a funeral can be delayed for several days and cosmetic work can be done on the corpse.
Despite the appearances it creates, it is a violent process, and the corpses still decompose. It just makes a dead body look, more or less, not dead, for a little while. About a century ago, embalming was rare. But during the Civil War, thousands of dead soldiers were embalmed.
- They died so far from home that the only alternative was a battlefield burial, so a rudimentary process using arsenic was used.
- Then, a few years later, President Lincoln was embalmed so that his body could cross the several states in a funeral train; in the public mourning, many Americans saw a preserved body for the first and last time.
By the early twentieth century, embalming was being promoted to the general public, It was the main skill of the new profession of undertaker. Professionally managed funerals with temporarily preserved bodies quickly became the convention; this is how the majority of Americans were buried in the 20th century.
And so an idea took hold in the American psyche: that we will be comforted by not seeing our loved one’s corpse — by not seeing the fact of our loved one’s death. That we find solace only when we remember our loved ones “as they were.” I have come to believe that the opposite is true. Embalming and the so-called restorative arts are about denial and, as a result, they unwittingly cause us greater pain.
The poet and mortician Thomas Lynch wrote of the practice, “I’m an apostle of the present tense.” To mourn, we need to accept what has happened, and in order to truly know what that is, we must look at what has happened. What good is served by turning away from the fact of loss? Only delay.
Only confusion, day after day, as reality collides with a dream. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, since 2015, cremation has become more common than burial, largely because it is cheaper. But embalming is still more common in the United States than anywhere else in the world. We do this even though there are alternatives that have always been with us.
Most of the world does not choose embalming. Buddhists and Hindus usually choose cremation. Muslims and Jews, whose religious laws forbid embalming, embrace natural burial, the way billions of bodies have been buried for eons — without preservation. More than twenty years after my mother died, my best friend, Carol, also died of breast cancer.
One of the most profound parts of being with a dying person is to see a person exactly as he or she is, and I had come to know Carol’s failing body in the months before she died, with shocking honesty, Carol was not embalmed. She looked dead. She felt dead. At the viewing, her skin was very cold and hard when I kissed her goodbye.
This helped me begin the mental shift from thinking, This is Carol, to, This is Carol’s body. We wrapped her in a muslin shroud and buried her in a meadow. I then felt the shift from Carol’s body to a body, a natural part of the world. It was a necessary farewell.
Later, her husband planted a tree there. Prettifying a body doesn’t make death pretty. Death can’t be pretty, My father bought a waterproof coffin because he knew that the same thing happens to all bodies, no matter what we do. He pretended to himself that steel could stop it. But nothing can stop it. To contemplate death is to contemplate our own denial of it.
Perhaps we beautify corpses or hide them from our sight not out of wanting to remember people as they were, but because we know that someday we will be as they are. We all feel resistance to death. It’s clear we know it will happen, because we somehow manage to convince ourselves it won’t.
- To see a dead body — a plain, real dead body, without decoration — is to see the world as it really is, and this makes all the difference.
- A dead body is not like any other object in the world.
- The muscles of the face relax into expressions never seen in life.
- Whatever you believe has happened, you know when you look at it that it is not the person you knew, that something profound has happened and cannot be undone, and this allows us to take a step toward the new world in which we live, where the person we love no longer exists.
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How long do human bones last in a grave?
Timeline – Timeline of postmortem changes (stages of death), with skeletonization near right side. In a temperate climate, it usually requires three weeks to several years for a body to completely decompose into a skeleton, depending on factors such as temperature, humidity, presence of insects, and submergence in a substrate such as water.
In tropical climates, skeletonization can occur in weeks, while in tundra areas, skeletonization may take years or may never occur, if freezing temperatures persist. Natural embalming processes in peat bogs or salt deserts can delay the process indefinitely, sometimes resulting in natural mummification,
The rate of skeletonization and the present condition of a corpse or carcass can be used to determine the time of death. After skeletonization, if scavenging animals do not destroy or remove the bones, acids in many fertile soils take about 20 years to completely dissolve the skeleton of mid- to large-size mammals, such as humans, leaving no trace of the organism.
Do embalmed bodies decay?
What happens when bodies are embalmed? – Embalming is the process of preserving a body after death. The first step is to sanitize the body, which is done by cleansing it with disinfectants and antibacterial solutions. Next, the body is drained of all fluids, and any natural cavities are filled with a preservative solution.
Finally, the body is wrapped in a shroud or placed in a coffin for burial. Embalming helps to delay decomposition and makes it possible for families to hold funeral services soon after a loved one has passed away. In some cases, embalming also allows for an open-casket funeral, so that mourners can say their final goodbyes.
While embalming does slow down the natural process of decomposition, it does not stop it entirely. Eventually, all bodies will decay, regardless of whether they have been embalmed or not.
How long does it take for a body to fully decompose in a grave?
What really happens when you die? Meet the people who handle us after death Dr Clare Gerada General practitioner When you die, you have to have your death certified by a doctor and a death certificate or a cremation certificate issued. If we have had contact with a patient in the previous two weeks and know the cause of death – if someone has been terminally ill, say – we can sign the death certificate immediately.
- If we haven’t seen the patient in the two weeks before their death, or if they have died after being discharged from hospital, then we must report it to the coroner, who may request a postmortem.
- The coroner may also request a postmortem if drugs or alcohol are suspected, or if there’s any suggestion of a violent death.
It’s my job to say if somebody is dead, not how they died. What I’m essentially looking for is brainstem activity. The brainstem is the part of the brain where the body’s vital functions are controlled – the breathing, the heart, the brain itself; it is the computer room of the body.
- If that bit of the brain is dead, then the person is essentially dead.
- You can still have reflex actions, so you may twitch after death.
- To certify that someone is dead, you listen to the heart for one minute and feel for a pulse for one minute.
- You examine for signs of breathing, you look at the pupils to check there is no response to a shining light.
If you’re not certain, you can rub on the breastbone, which is a very painful procedure: if they are not dead, they’ll quickly jump up and say, “That hurt!” Nowadays there are machine tests for brainstem death that involve connecting up the brain and looking at the activity.
Those tests would be done before organ donation. Rigor mortis is the stiffening of the body, which begins a few hours after death and then after a while starts to reverse. A forensic scientist can estimate the time of death by whether rigor mortis has come and gone. Most people will die in bed, but of the group that don’t, the majority will die sitting on the lavatory.
This is because there are some terminal events, such as an enormous heart attack or clot on the lung, where the bodily sensation is as if you want to defecate. Also, many people die on special occasions. People tend to hang on for a birthday or Christmas.
I’m not saying that death is psychologically motivated, but there’s a sense that people stay alive for these events and their loved ones, and then pass away, so the death rate increases on birthdays and during religious festivals. When a death is expected, the ideal place for it is at home, in a familiar environment, surrounded by family.
But that is becoming a rarer event. What is becoming more common is people being rushed into hospital for what I believe is a more undignified and worse death, in an anonymous room with nurses who are busy. In my view that is a failure of health professionals, because we should be preparing the families of terminally ill people for death, showing them that it doesn’t have to be frightening and that they can do it at home.
- Palliative care is all about making death comfortable – you do not need to die in pain, you can die in a dignified manner.
- People worry that having a death at home will be horrible and traumatic for the family, but a good death is like a good birth – it is a beautiful event, not at all undignified.
- Dr Rob Jenkins Pathologist Most people who come to me for a postmortem examination will have died from heart disease.
In the elderly, strokes and pneumonia are also very common. The young are more likely to die from accidents, suicide or particular types of tumours one gets in youth. If a young person dies, the likelihood of them having a postmortem is high because their death is much more likely to be unexpected.
- Many older people who die won’t have a postmortem because they are likely to have had a known illness that has led to their death.
- The first part of a postmortem is an external examination that notes the condition of the patient, any unique identifiers such as tattoos, evidence of recent medical intervention or injuries.
Their notes might say “found dead in bed”, but you don’t know whether they have fallen and banged their head the day before and have a subtle but significant injury, so you are looking out for things like that. The internal examination starts with an incision from the sternum to the pubic bone.
You go through the skin, fat and muscles to expose the rib cage. Then you cut through some of the ribs for access to the upper organs. When removing the organs you work in three blocks. The thoracic block contains the throat, tongue, lungs, heart and aorta. Then you have the liver, stomach and pancreas in the second block.
The final block includes the kidneys, the remainder of the aorta, bowels, bladder and reproductive organs. The incision doesn’t go all the way up to the chin because we don’t want anything to be visible to the relatives if they view the body. So, to remove the tongue and windpipe, we work up under the skin from the chest.
You loosen the skin up to the jawline, then you can work the blade to cut around the tongue, across the vessels and pull them down under the jaw. Once you have removed all the organs, you take them to the bench and go through each of the blocks for more detailed analysis. You look for organ weight – a good indication of heart disease will be a big, heavy, often baggy, heart.
You look for vessels blocked by clots or fatty deposits. As you slice through the lungs, you are looking to see if there is fluid where there shouldn’t be, if there are tumours or evidence of asbestos exposure. If someone had alcoholic liver disease, one might expect a small, shrunken, scarred liver.
- Using a scalpel, the mortuary technician will make an incision at the back of the head and lift up the scalp to reveal the skull.
- A little hand-held saw is used to cut through the skull.
- The technician will ask you to observe as they take off the skull in case there is something immediately obvious, such as a brain haemorrhage.
They will then take out the brain for examination. Many good things may come from a postmortem. You may find something that is relevant to subsequent generations – say, if a young mother has died and you find a coincidental breast cancer, you would suggest screening for her children.
- If you can’t find a cause of death from looking at the organs with the naked eye, you take tissue and fluid samples, which are examined under microscopes and submitted for toxicological analysis.
- Once you have finished, everything is put back into the body and the incisions are sewn up.
- It is not possible to re-site the organs into the positions they held in life, but the body is reconstructed as far as possible.
It is cleaned to remove traces of fluid or blood. The hair is washed. You complete the cause of death documentation and the body can be released for cremation or burial. John Harris Funeral director Once the death has been certified, we’ll go to the family’s home or hospital to remove the body and bring it back to the funeral parlour.
- Because of health and safety regulations, we have to be careful with manual handling – using stretchers enables us to slide the body rather than do heavy lifting.
- If someone is being collected from a hospital, they would probably be in a hospital shroud; if it’s a removal from a home, they are more likely to be in nightclothes.
People don’t have the close family networks they used to. It’s more frequent these days for someone to have died alone in their house and not be found for two or three days and sometimes two or three months. We have to go in and remove the body, which can be quite an unpleasant experience.
- If a body is left untreated at room temperature, it will deteriorate quickly, so at the funeral parlour it will be put into a refrigerated unit until the death is registered.
- Then, with the family’s permission, the body can be embalmed.
- With the Muslim faith, an imam will come in and wash the body and wrap it in an unbleached cloth.
Hindu and Sikh families will come and do the washing themselves. If the deceased is male, the male family members will come; if female, it will be the women. After embalming, we will dress the body before placing it in a coffin. It depends on the size of the person, but usually two or three people do the dressing.
- The family usually provide clothing – a favourite outfit or something apt.
- African families often provide full robes and headdress, and Chinese families will bring spare clothing to go with the deceased on their journey into the next life.
- So we dress them and put all the spare clothing around them in the coffin.
If the body has been dead for a while and the skin has deteriorated, you have to be very careful. Often, a person may have had a lot of drips and incisions and certain drugs, which can affect the skin, so the skin may be fragile, almost like paper, or weeping.
- If this is the case, we dress the body in a plastic bodysuit under their clothes to protect the clothes and prevent leakages.
- Once the body is dressed, and hair and make-up have been done, the body is placed in the coffin and put in a private viewing room.
- It can stay there for a day, or longer if required.
The longest we’ve had a body in our chapel is 13 months. A lot of my work is arranging for bodies to go back to their home abroad. About a fifth of our work is repatriation now because of the cultural diversity of the area we are based in – east London.
This requires tropical embalming because the body may be kept for longer. Tropical embalming takes longer and uses stronger chemicals. Ghanaian funerals, for example, can be anything from two months to two years after death. We’ve had bodies here for three or four months before they’ve been flown home to Africa for the funeral.
Karen Koutandos Embalmer The body is brought out of the fridge and removed from the body bag or the sheets in which it has been wrapped. I gently clean the deceased with a formaldehyde or disinfectant spray. The body might be quite clamped with rigor mortis, so I massage the hands and limbs to work it out, then make an incision to raise an artery so I can inject the formaldehyde.
- I tend to use the brachial artery under the armpit, or the femoral artery in the groin area, to avoid incisions being seen, which can be stressful for the families when they come for a viewing.
- As the formaldehyde flows through the body, you begin to get colour and a more lifelike appearance.
- The features will plump out slightly and the deceased will look less drawn.
If a body is going abroad, the strength and amount of fluid used is increased, to ensure preservation and sanitation for a longer period. After the formaldehyde, I drain the body of blood and fluid from the organs and chest cavity. I make an incision just under the rib cage and insert a metal suction tool, known as a trocar, attached to a suction pump.
- I then puncture the internal organs to drain the fluid.
- I remove the contents of the intestines, bowels and bladder, too, as these can give off gases and smell.
- I don’t come into contact with the fluids.
- It’s very clean and tidy.
- After I have drained the body, I distribute a litre of cavity fluid between the thoracic and abdominal cavities so that all the tissues are saturated and do not smell.
Although the bowels will have already been emptied, I put an incontinence pad on the body to protect the clothing and the coffin. We have to take out pacemakers because they can’t go into the crematorium. Usually you are told that the person has a pacemaker that needs to come out, but if you are not, you can see the incision where it has gone in.
- Next, I pack the throat and nose with cotton wool to stop fluid seepage.
- If the deceased doesn’t have teeth, I put cotton around the mouth to plump it out a little; if they have dentures, I put them in place.
- I then stitch the mouth closed from the inside.
- Sometimes glue is used but I do not like the white residue it can leave after it has dried.
I dry the eyes and insert plastic half-moon caps under the lids to help them hold their shape, and a touch of Vaseline helps to hold them closed. If the eyes are not dried, they can give the appearance of having a tear, which may be distressing to the family.
- I will wash and style the hair, ensure that the men are shaved and any nasal and ear hair removed.
- Nails are cleaned and cut.
- It’s a myth that your hair and nails keep growing after you are dead – what actually happens is that your skin retracts, so they appear longer.
- Even if the family are not planning to view the body, I like to make sure everything is done thoroughly in case they change their minds.
I try to make the face look peaceful because this is the last memory the family will have and I want it to be a good memory. I use very few cosmetics, just enough to take away the “waxy look” that can occur. Of the bodies that come to the funeral homes I work in, around 90% will be embalmed.
- The ones that don’t will be where the family have refused or the funeral is taking place very quickly.
- Embalming is an art.
- The deceased is always treated with respect and I always do the best job I can.
- I believe that you have to care about what you do.
- When you stop caring, then it is time to leave the profession.
Michael Brown Crematorium technician All coffins have a card with a number that is checked against the nameplate on the coffin before cremation. That card goes on the back of the cremator so we can keep track throughout. There is only room for one coffin per cremation chamber, so it’s impossible to cremate two people at once.
- I often get asked about taking the bodies out and selling the coffins and taking off the brass handles or taking out gold teeth – it’s just not done.
- Everything goes into the cremator.
- Any metal will melt down and become blackened and mingled with the ashes.
- You have to be careful with watches, though, because the batteries will explode.
The undertaker should have removed any watches before the funeral. The cremation chamber is fuelled by gas and has to be heated to at least 750C before we can load, or “charge”, the coffin. We have to adhere to strict guidelines and everything is logged automatically on the computer – time, date, duration, emissions, smoke levels, carbon monoxide, oxygen levels and the temperature in the different parts of the cremator.
- The computer prints out a report and every few months these are sent to environmental health.
- During the cremation, the coffin burns first, then the flesh and then the organs.
- After 60 minutes or so, you can look through the spyhole to see how it is going.
- After 90 minutes, depending on the size of the person, all that is left is the glow of the ashes, no flames.
A person with a lot of fat will burn hotter and for longer, up to three hours, whereas a small, frail person may take 80 or 90 minutes. People think wicker and cardboard coffins are saving the planet, but they burn very quickly instead of creating a slow, even heat like wood.
- That means you need more heat to cremate the body, so use more gas.
- It’s also more hazardous for us, because they catch alight so quickly and harder on us because we can sometimes see the body through the wicker.
- Once there are no more flames, you can stop the cremation and rake it out using a 15ft stainless-steel rake.
There are no short cuts. We clean out the cremator every time. All that is left are the ashes from the body, plus nails and screws from the coffin and any artificial steel joints or metal plates. There may also be some bone fragments left. It tends to be the hip and the shin bones, because they are quite large.
- There will be more bones if it is a large-framed or young person.
- Young bones are stronger and reduce less easily.
- The remains are raked into a steel bin at the bottom of the cremator to cool, before being transferred into a machine called a cremulator, which contains steel balls that grind down the remains into a fine ash.
Your ID card goes into the cremulator, along with a plastic urn with your cremation number on it that the ashes fall into at the end. The cremulator filters any artificial joints or metal and these are buried in a deep hole at the back of the crematorium, although we are looking into ways of recycling them.
- The cremulator may sound callous, but breaking down the remains is important because if you are going to have a scattering it means the remains can be dispersed as a fine ash rather than as bones, which is less distressing for the family.
- We carry out the whole process of cremation and cremulation as if we were doing our own family – with the utmost dignity at all times.
It’s not right to be slapdash. Gary Burks Cemetery operations manager If a person buys a grave plot, they have a choice of that grave being used for anything between one and five people. For a single grave, the law requires that the coffin be buried under at least 3ft of earth, unless the ground conditions are suitable and then the shallowest a coffin can be buried is beneath 2ft 6in of soil.
The ideal is light, dry soil, not wet, heavy clay. With a grave for five people, the first person would be buried at 11ft and the next coffin would go in at 9ft 6in and so on. You have to have at least six inches between each coffin in a multiple grave. If a body were buried illegally in a shallow grave less than 2ft deep, the decomposition rate is only 18 months to three years.
That’s banking on disturbance by small mammals and insects. Whereas, with a proper burial, with the coffin deep in the ground, the decomposition rate is much slower. The ground conditions affect the decomposition rate. If the coffin is sealed in a very wet, heavy clay ground, the body tends to last longer because the air is not getting to the deceased.
If the ground is light, dry soil, decomposition is quicker. Generally speaking, a body takes 10 or 15 years to decompose to a skeleton. Some of the old Victorian graves hold families of up to eight people. As those coffins decompose, the remains will gradually sink to the bottom of the grave and merge.
The coffin at the bottom will often be the first to collapse and may pull down the remains above it. Graves are dug by machine, where possible. On our new sites, where there is more room, we use a mechanical digger similar to the type you might see on the roads.
We are told two days in advance what the coffin size will be. So we tailor the grave to fit. With a reopened grave, or in a traditional area where you have had to move memorials to get to the grave, you are likely to be digging by hand. With good soil conditions, it’s possible to hand-dig a grave in 1½ hours.
But I’ve experienced it taking five hours because of roots or hard ground. A dry summer will make the ground very hard for up to 2ft. A hard frost will mean 6in of ground is frozen solid. For £27,000 you can buy a vault grave. This is the most expensive grave we have.
- We excavate a big hole and concrete the sides and bottom and then put brickwork and a landing on the top.
- Generally, the coffin is encased in concrete – or entombed, as we call it.
- The coffin can be wood, but it must be sealed, usually using lead or zinc.
- We do this to stop noxious fumes and because we don’t backfill the vault, so if you moved the landing off you could look down and see remains in the grave.
Sometimes we do exhumations. The grave owner must obtain an exhumation licence before we can do this. There have been cases of people who have moved away from the area and wanted to take their loved ones with them, or wanted to transport them back to their roots abroad.
Some people have an aversion to burial and decide they would rather have a cremation after all. Dean Fisher Resomation technician One of the biggest problems with cremation is the amount of mercury going into the atmosphere and the ecosystem. In Britain, about 16% of the mercury that goes into the atmosphere is caused by cremations.
Resomation is a greener alternative to cremation. It uses water, potassium hydroxide and steam heat to dissolve the body. At the moment there are only a few resomation chambers in operation in the world, all of them in the US – ours is at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota – but there has been interest from several UK councils and cemeteries about installing them.
- It does offer people a greener option.
- We place the body in a basket with small holes in it and slide the body into the round resomation chamber.
- Once you’ve loaded the body, you input the temperature, body weight and duration.
- We calculate the amount of chemical needed by the size of the body.
- Once the body is in the sealed chamber, it is immersed in around 425 to 500 litres of water mixed with around 15 to 20 litres of potassium hydroxide.
A coil running though the unit generates steam, which heats all the ingredients to 150C, and then a recirculation pump creates a whirlpool effect that helps the body to dissolve. All the tissue, muscle, hair and nails inside the unit will dissolve. Resomation turns the body back into its original elements.
- It breaks down the body and neutralises everything, including the chemicals used to preserve the body, such as formaldehyde.
- What we’re doing is speeding up the natural process of being in the ground, breaking down the body in hours instead of 20 or 30 years.
- All that is left at the end of a resomation cycle are bone remains and liquid.
Only certain clothing fibres will dissolve during resomation, though. Cotton will not dissolve, silk and wool will. If you had on an outfit that was half wool and half cotton, you’ll see cotton fibres left in the basket with the bone shadows at the end.
- With cremation, only large bones will be left.
- With resomation, all the bones are left.
- Because the body lies in a basket in the resomation chamber, we can lift out the skeleton bone by bone.
- These are placed under a heat lamp overnight to dry.
- What we call the bone shadows, which are pure calcium phosphate, sterile and white, are then placed in the cremulator, which turns the bone into a fine powder similar to white flour – more aesthetic for family members than cremation ashes, which are grittier and blackish-brown.
The innocuous fluid left at the end of the process contains what the body is ultimately comprised of – nitrogen, phosphate, proteins, amino acids, salts and sugars. It’s got a greenish-brown tint and it flows just like water. This liquid contains no DNA so has no detectable link with the original body.
Why do they cover the legs in a casket?
Feet Swells And Shoes Don’t Fit – So many things happen to the body when a person dies, and one thing in common is that parts of the body start swelling. Embalming helps the body fight swell, but the body’s shape drastically changes, including the feet. And it’s challenging to put shoes on a deceased’s feet, so they put socks instead. For this reason, the legs are covered with a blanket.
How long do coffins last after burial?
Types Of Caskets Material Matters – Before making a choice, you should look at the different funeral casket types available. The most common types of caskets include steel and wood but you could also pick fleece caskets, pine box caskets, paper/cardboard caskets and cloth caskets.
- When you pick steel as the material for your loved one’s funeral casket, you are essentially looking at a material that lasts at least three decades.
- If there tends to be a lot of moisture or ground water at the grave site, then it may affect steel.
- However, many makers of caskets ensure that the steel used is 18-gauge which is thick and heavier than other types of material.
Also, steel caskets come with a glossy finish which not just adds to the aesthetic value but also ensures that the steel doesn’t corrode easily. If you are looking at a long-lasting ground casket, pick a steel or metal casket. If the grave site is low on water content or moisture, metal caskets are known to last even longer, over five decades.
Why do some bodies not decompose?
Decomposition – Cheating the decomposers – Bodies decompose through the feeding activities of a variety of organisms. The body will be preserved if:
- organisms can be excluded
- the body is made unpalatable
- the environment is made too hostile for the decomposer organisms
How long does it take for a body in a casket to turn to bones?
What May You See If You Open The Casket After Ten Years? – The body takes between ten to fifteen years to decay to a point where you may just find bones, teeth and hair remaining in the casket. There may also be some excess tissue and clothing fibers that withstood the ten years of decay.
- Grave wax may coat the bottom of the casket as leftover fat from where the body’s thighs once lay.
- When do these organic remains disappear completely? The skeletal remains eventually become fossils, and the collagen in them melts down once it becomes progressively frailer.
- Finally, it turns to ash or dust.
But all of this takes well beyond ten years— sometimes even over one hundred years.
What does a buried embalmed body look like after 1 year?
Seeing a body after one year – If you were able to view a body after one year of burial, you may see as little as the skeleton laid to rest in the soil or as much as the body still recognizable with all the clothes intact. Depending on what was done to the body before burial and in what condition it was buried in, the state of a decomposed body can vary greatly.
In a cemetery, for instance, where bodies are buried in different ways and in different times, you could have two bodies in the same stage of decomposition buried ten years apart. For the most part, however, if a non-embalmed body was viewed one year after burial, it would already be significantly decomposed, the soft tissues gone, and only the bones and some other body parts remaining.
If the body was embalmed before burial, there would still be moist material around the body from the decomposition of soft tissues and the body fat will be transforming into soap-like material as the moisture evaporates. In either case, the decomposition process is well on its way.
What does a buried body look like after 1 month in a coffin?
After 1 month, the liquefaction process commences. During this stage the body loses the most mass. The muscles, organs and skin are liquefied, with the cadaver’s bones, cartilage and hair remaining at the end of this process.
Are eyes removed during embalming?
A Mortician Tells What It’s Like To Work With Dead Bodies Every Day AP Images A man who works in a mortuary led a to give a glimpse into what it’s like to deal with issues of mortality on a daily basis. From the strangest requests he’s ever had to what happens during cremation and embalming practices where the body is temporarily preserved for viewing purposes, here’s the closest most of us will ever get to knowing what it’s like to work in a morgue.
NOTE: Reddit uses anonymous sources, which we can’t verify. We’ve slightly edited questions and answers for clarity. Q: What is the strangest request that you’ve ever received for a funeral service? A: We had a dead clown one time. This person was buried in full clown costume with makeup and all. The whole family was clowns.
All the friends were clowns. And at the family’s request, the funeral directors were clowns too. They supplied costumes and did our makeup. Family and friends had one tear drop painted on near the eye. Definitely my strangest. They were all sad clowns with a tear.
Q: Any other funerals that stand out in your memory? A: One time we had a person who did some acting and modeling in California. A hand model. The family came in early to set up pictures and things. I showed them in, helped them get started then left them. I came back about 10 minutes later to check on them and just about every picture they put up was this person’s hands from the various ads they did.
There were some family photos, but most were a pair of hands. Q: What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve done to a cadaver? A: I had this guy to prep one time. He had an intubater, this tube down his throat and was taped on his face. One piece of the tape was across his mustache.
- When I took the tape off, most of his mustache came with it.
- So I shaved it.
- The wife was super pissed.
- She threatened to sue unless we fixed it.
- So what am I to do? I went to a costume shop and bought a pack of fake mustaches.
- We had a picture of him, but none of these mustaches worked.
- I picked the best possible match and put it on him.
We then called her to come look. We were nervous. It was bad. So she comes in and absolutely loves it! I couldn’t believe it. She then turned super sweet and hugged me. Q: When you cremate someone, how often do the ashes from previous customers make it into the current customer’s mix? A: There is some co-mingling involved, although very minimal.
- It is unavoidable since you can’t get every single grain out.
- As long as you sweep it properly after each person, it is very minimal.
- Q: What exactly happens to the eyes during an embalming? Do you glue the lips of the dead person together? A: The eyes usually start to flatten after death.
- Think of an old grape.
They do, however, remain with the decedent. We don’t remove them. You can use what is called an eye cap to put over the flattened eyeball to recreate the natural curvature of the eye. You can also inject tissue builder directly into the eyeball and fill it up.
And sometimes, the embalming fluid will fill the eye to normal size. Yes, the eyes and lips are glued together. Q: Will there ever be a job you refuse to do? A: I’ve seen pictures and have heard about people being embalmed and placed on a motorcycle, stood up in the corner, in a recliner, This all seems ridiculous and disrespectful to me.
Especially if the deceased did not request it. I say I would refuse to do this to someone, but who knows? I mean, if the family really wants it. Q: Did you go into the business by your own choice? A: Yes, I did. I was fascinated by the industry as a kid.
When I was 12, there was a bad head on collision near my house and a man in a truck didn’t make it. My family and I were standing around with all the other neighbors when the coroner arrived. He pronounced him deceased, then they took him out and put him on a stretcher and his head turned to the side looking straight at me.
I remember being curious as to what happens to people when they die, as far as the physical body. Q: Are women creeped out by your career choice? A: Some are. I like to date other morticians or nurses. They seem to understand and are over the whole novelty of it.
- Q: Would you be embalmed yourself? Or would you want to be cremated? A: I’m ok with being embalmed and buried.
- I’m also ok with being cremated.
- I will let my family choose the method which best suits them at the time.
- Q: What kind of person would make a good mortician? A: It’s funny.
- I was a waiter for many years in my younger days.
I always say, if you can be a successful waiter, you can be a successful funeral director. They are similar in many ways. They both wait on families and provide what should be excellent customer service. The only difference is that one puts a pizza in the oven and the other puts a body in the oven.
What is the only organ left in the body after embalming?
Mummification Process – The mummification process took seventy days. Special priests worked as embalmers, treating and wrapping the body. Beyond knowing the correct rituals and prayers to be performed at various stages, the priests also needed a detailed knowledge of human anatomy.
- The first step in the process was the removal of all internal parts that might decay rapidly.
- The brain was removed by carefully inserting special hooked instruments up through the nostrils in order to pull out bits of brain tissue.
- It was a delicate operation, one which could easily disfigure the face.
The embalmers then removed the organs of the abdomen and chest through a cut usually made on the left side of the abdomen. They left only the heart in place, believing it to be the center of a person’s being and intelligence. The other organs were preserved separately, with the stomach, liver, lungs, and intestines placed in special boxes or jars today called canopic jars.
- These were buried with the mummy.
- In later mummies, the organs were treated, wrapped, and replaced within the body.
- Even so, unused canopic jars continued to be part of the burial ritual.
- The embalmers next removed all moisture from the body.
- This they did by covering the body with natron, a type of salt which has great drying properties, and by placing additional natron packets inside the body.
When the body had dried out completely, embalmers removed the internal packets and lightly washed the natron off the body. The result was a very dried-out but recognizable human form. To make the mummy seem even more life-like, sunken areas of the body were filled out with linen and other materials and false eyes were added.
Next the wrapping began. Each mummy needed hundreds of yards of linen. The priests carefully wound the long strips of linen around the body, sometimes even wrapping each finger and toe separately before wrapping the entire hand or foot. In order to protect the dead from mishap, amulets were placed among the wrappings and prayers and magical words written on some of the linen strips.
Often the priests placed a mask of the person’s face between the layers of head bandages. At several stages the form was coated with warm resin and the wrapping resumed once again. At last, the priests wrapped the final cloth or shroud in place and secured it with linen strips.
The mummy was complete. The priests preparing the mummy were not the only ones busy during this time. Although the tomb preparation usually had begun long before the person’s actual death, now there was a deadline, and craftsmen, workers, and artists worked quickly. There was much to be placed in the tomb that a person would need in the Afterlife.
Furniture and statuettes were readied; wall paintings of religious or daily scenes were prepared; and lists of food or prayers finished. Through a magical process, these models, pictures, and lists would become the real thing when needed in the Afterlife.
Everything was now ready for the funeral. As part of the funeral, priests performed special religious rites at the tomb’s entrance. The most important part of the ceremony was called the “Opening of the Mouth.” A priest touched various parts of the mummy with a special instrument to “open” those parts of the body to the senses enjoyed in life and needed in the Afterlife.
By touching the instrument to the mouth, the dead person could now speak and eat. He was now ready for his journey to the Afterlife. The mummy was placed in his coffin, or coffins, in the burial chamber and the entrance sealed up. Such elaborate burial practices might suggest that the Egyptians were preoccupied with thoughts of death.
- On the contrary, they began early to make plans for their death because of their great love of life.
- They could think of no life better than the present, and they wanted to be sure it would continue after death.
- But why preserve the body? The Egyptians believed that the mummified body was the home for this soul or spirit.
If the body was destroyed, the spirit might be lost. The idea of “spirit” was complex involving really three spirits: the ka, ba, and akh. The ka, a “double” of the person, would remain in the tomb and needed the offerings and objects there. The ba, or “soul”, was free to fly out of the tomb and return to it.
Do the royals get embalmed?
Embalming is a process which has long been used by the royals ; it involves preservative fluids being injected into bodies to delay decomposition. Queen Elizabeth I was embalmed after her passing in 1603 and her coffin was placed in Whitehall Palace for three weeks before her burial.
Why do embalmed bodies feel hard?
Embalming leaves her cold I see dead people. But I don’t want to. After attending my umpteenth wake this summer — we really are dropping like flies — I’m once again struck by our bizarre and rather gruesome need to dress and decorate the deceased human body like a child’s doll. Some years ago, I was standing somberly before the casket of a dead relative with my 10-year-old niece when she noted in a horrified but highly amusing stage whisper, “She looks like she’s gonna jump out of her coffin and get me.” For that lifelike depiction, I suppose we should credit the embalmer. Too often, though, the dead don’t look very natural, despite extensive and expensive efforts to render the body fit for public display. The corpses of older folks seem to fare better in the “doesn’t she look good” department, perhaps because they’re already, well, old, It’s the younger people who never look quite right as they rest on their satin pillows: too much rouge, puffed up and waxy, the sort of lifeless ghouls befitting a Stephen King novel. Behind the scenes, it’s weirder still. First, the body is drained of blood and preserved with gallons of ethanol and formaldehyde, which makes it feel hard to the touch. Then it’s dressed and gussied up like it’s headed for the zombie town fair, so the mourners can file past to pray and secretly gape while making the sign of the cross. It’s a wonder we don’t stick a tape recorder in the mouth and make the lips move. I’ve never understood the Christian waking ritual and have always found it morbid and unnatural. Not everyone does it, of course. Tibetan Buddhists, for example, will sometimes leave a dead body exposed to the elements as food for vultures, and now would probably be a good time to apologize to anyone reading this column during their Labor Day weekend cookout. Because of my distaste for wakes, I was interested to learn that only in the United States and Canada do people routinely embalm the dead. This is according to Mark Harris, an environment journalist and author of “Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry To a Natural Way of Burial.” It’s not summer beach reading, but summer is over anyway. “There’s something about our culture that we need to see the body in a state where it looks like the dead have just slipped off to sleep,” Harris said. “We don’t really deal with death. We don’t want to talk about death. We’re scared of it. But we all know that death is a part of life.” In the face of the billion-dollar funeral industry, Harris is a strong advocate for “green” or chemical-free burial, a concept that’s gaining much steam among environmental-friendly baby boomers. That means no embalming, no gussied-up corpse, no metal caskets and no burial vaults. Instead, the deceased is wrapped in a cloth shroud or simple pine coffin (the latter used in Jewish burials), placed in a vault-free grave, and buried in a natural cemetery or on rural land. The goal is to avoid both the toxic chemicals that can seep into the earth and the “landfill of materials” and wood buried in the typical cemetery, he said. People were basically planted in the ground with little fanfare until the Civil War, when bodies were often shipped home long distances and tended to well, you know. Harris said that Abraham Lincoln was the first public embalmee, as it were, and he kicked off the elaborate ritual that continues today. Contrary to popular belief, however, it’s unnecessary. “Most of us believe that a body needs to be embalmed, which is almost never the case, and that you must use a funeral director, which is rarely the case,” he said. “More and more people are having funerals at home, where they wash, dress and lay out the body themselves. It’s returning to old traditions.” Personally, I’m not sure I could lay out mom on a slab of dry ice in the living room parlor, but lots of options are available. Cremation is a good choice, because it consumes fewer resources than the modern funeral. Plus, it tends to creep out fewer kids. And in these lean economic times, it’s a lot cheaper. Only seven states require the involvement of funeral homes in the burial process, and Massachusetts is not among them, he said. Anyone interested in pursuing family-directed home funerals can check out peacefulpassageathome.com, a website from Shirley. “The modern American way of death relegates mourners to a passive role,” Harris said. “A green burial really does speak to old-fashion American values like thrift, simplicity, love of family and something good for the environment.” Count me in — just not too soon. Contact Dianne Williamson via e-mail at [email protected] : Embalming leaves her cold
Why do bodies look different at funerals?
A body may be different in death than in life – Some people who have been suddenly bereaved may want to view the body of their loved one because they have had a positive experience of viewing a body previously, for example a grandparent who died in old age.
If someone dies of old age then their body in death often looks fairly similar to their body in life. However, when someone dies suddenly in childhood or in mid life their body may look very different to how the person looked when alive. This is particularly the case if their death was violent, or they had urgent medical intervention such as a major operation prior to death.
A body may be different in death to life because:
injuries or surgical procedures have damaged the body. For example, skin has changed colour due to internal bleeding, or the body’s facial appearance has changed due to a broken jaw, or cuts, etc.a mortician or funeral director has changed a body’s appearance through clothing, or hair arrangement, or cosmetics. Such “dressing” of the body may be very different to how the person in life would have done it.the body smells different. For example, due to embalming processes, or antiseptics used during an operation.
Maggie says: “I had seen the body of my grandmother so I wasn’t worried about seeing my husband’s body. I knew that seeing my grandmother’s body had helped me come to terms with her death so I thought it would be the same when I saw Gary’s body. I just didn’t think how different it would be.
Gary’s body was destroyed by the car crash. When he was in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital the staff had wired up his broken jaw and not bothered to tell me it was broken because he had so many internal injuries and other broken bones so they felt his jaw was unimportant information; a minor detail.
But when he died and I went to see the body I was utterly shocked that his face looked so collapsed. I thought he would look about the same in death as he had when he was on the life support machine. I remember screaming “That’s not my husband” and running out.
It was horrible. I felt terrible, and I felt I had behaved terribly, with no self control. This left me with feelings of misery and some embarrassment.” As someone helping a bereaved person, it is therefore useful to know what changes have occurred to a body, and, firstly, to tell a bereaved person that there have been changes, then, secondly, ask the bereaved person if they wish to know the details of those changes in order to assist them to make the decision to view a body or not.
Some bereaved people may not want to be told about any changes to the body and may not want to view the body. They may wish to remember the person how they were in life, and not have this memory intruded upon in any way, either by being told what the body looks like or by seeing the body.
Why do they cross the arms of the dead?
Body positioning – A Muslim cemetery in Sahara, with all graves placed at right angles to distant Mecca Burials may be placed in a number of different positions. Bodies with the arms crossed date back to ancient cultures such as Chaldea in the 10th century BC, where the “X” symbolized their sky god.
Later ancient Egyptian gods and royalty, from approximately 3500 B.C. are shown with crossed arms, such as the god Osiris, the Lord of the Dead, or mummified royalty with crossed arms in high and low body positions, depending upon the dynasty. The burial of bodies in the extended position, i.e., lying flat with arms and legs straight, or with the arms folded upon the chest, and with the eyes and mouth closed.
Extended burials may be supine (lying on the back) or prone (lying on the front). However, in some cultures, being buried face down shows marked disrespect like in the case of the Sioux. Other ritual practices place the body in a flexed position with the legs bent or crouched with the legs folded up to the chest.
Warriors in some ancient societies were buried in an upright position. In Islam, the body is placed in supine position, hands along the sides and the head is turned to its right with the face towards the Qibla, Many cultures treat placement of dead people in an appropriate position to be a sign of respect even when burial is impossible.
In nonstandard burial practices, such as mass burial, the body may be positioned arbitrarily. This can be a sign of disrespect to the deceased, or at least nonchalance on the part of the inhumer, or due to considerations of time and space.
What happens to an embalmed body after 2 weeks?
Content Warning: This article contains graphic descriptions of the decomposition process. It may not be suitable for all readers. Whether you’re worried about the funeral, or just plain curious. I understand. Typically, after two weeks a dead body will look slightly bloated compared to how it looked at the time of death.
- If the deceased was embalmed, visual changes are likely to be minimal.
- If the body was not embalmed or kept in a cool and dry place, the skin may have developed a blue-greenish hue.
- Giving a more definitive answer is difficult because there are so many factors that affect the rate and way in which a dead body decomposes.
However, in this article I will try my best to give you an accurate idea based on extensive research. Read on to learn more about:
- What a dead body looks like after two weeks
- The impacts of embalming
- What a dead body looks like beyond that
- The stages of decomposition
- Factors that affect the rate of decomposition
Note: We won’t be hosting images of decomposing bodies on our site. However, these are easily found on Google images and elsewhere on the internet if that’s what you are looking for. ADVERTISEMENT
How long does it take for an embalmed body to decompose in a coffin in a mausoleum?
How Long Does It Take For Bodies To Decompose In A Mausoleum? – The amount of time it takes for a body to decompose in a mausoleum depends on the local environment, the type of casket used to hold the remains, and the type of embalmment used to prepare the body.
However, if the mausoleum was built with proper airflow and drainage, it can take up to 8 decades for a body to fully decompose. During that time, the body’s tissues and organs will liquefy and drain away from the casket, slowly turning the body into a mummy. However, it’s essential that the body can breathe during this period to prevent it from entirely turning into liquid.
The factors that impact the time it takes for a body to decompose in a mausoleum include:
Casket Type – Unsealed caskets made from a porous type of wood, such as pine, offer the most ventilation and help the body slowly desiccate into a mummy. Although the decomposition process is a little faster, it produces the best results, which is why these are the preferred option. Temperature – Bodies laid to rest in colder climates generally decompose at a slower rate than bodies in warmer, more tropical climates. Heat speeds up chemical and biological reactions, causing the inner tissues to liquefy sooner than in a colder climate. Embalming – Embalming is designed to help preserve bodies, but it’s not always necessary. Choosing to have a loved one embalmed before laying them to rest in a mausoleum can improve the overall effect of mummification, but it will greatly lengthen the amount of time it takes for their remains to decompose.