Body Farms: Outdoor Research Facilities for Studying Decomposing Bodies

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Less than forty years ago, our understanding of how the human body decomposes was limited. Much of what was known came from ancient studies conducted by Song Ci in China during the 13th century. Song Ci (1186-1249) was a forensic medical expert whose groundbreaking book titled Collected Cases of Injustice Rectified is still held in high esteem by forensic scientists. But the things forensic experts learned from Song Ci’s research were still not enough for modern crime solving. Forensic anthropologist, William M. Bass, was one of the first to realize this.
Bass had been in the position of head of the anthropology department at the University of Tennessee for a little over a decade, and had been appointed as the first state forensic anthropologist of Tennessee. As the state’s forensic anthropologist, Bass was often called upon to determine the cause and time of death. While working on these cases, Bass realized the importance of needing a place to study and observe postmortem events.


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