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Name: Coleen G.
Status: Other
Age: 40s 
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2002


Question:
I am not a teacher, but in my search for an answer I was lead to this web site. We recently had a death in our family and the question came up about body decomposition. I would like to know what really happens and hope you can help us. What exactly does happen to the human body after it has been buried. Eg. how exactly does it decompose and how long does it take to decompose, does embalming delay the procedure, does the type of dirt or casket it is buried in affect the rate of decomposition, etc.

I have been told that maggots eat the flesh away, is this true? I thought the body eventually went to dust, is this true? I would appreciate some answers and any web sites is possible, please.



Replies:
I am so sorry for your loss. Yes, embalming does delay the decomposition process. Some parts decompose more quickly, the eyes, etc. Also remember that the coffin is sealed, and most of the time the coffin is put into a cement vault. When the person is buried, however, they are not sterile, even though embalmed and the bacteria and fungi will eventually multiply and start the decay process. I do not know for sure, but I am sure the soil type is a factor as is the soil temperature. When the Bible says, dust to dust, I believe they are really referring to soil. When we buried our dead in the ground, I am sure they decayed much more quickly. I hope this answers your questions.

vanhoeck


Colleen,

I am sorry to hear of your recent loss. I don't have a web site or a date for the info., but I recall seeing one of the investigational shows like 20/20 which looked into supposed fraud by funeral homes in encouraging costly caskets to grief-stricken customers. The only information I recall (this show was prior to 1997) was information we used in making a selection for my grandmother's funeral. In this case they mentioned that a wooden casket allowed for natural dry decomposition of the body and that the extra expense incurred in the purchase of seal tite metal caskets did not really provide any special value over the cheaper wooden variety. naturally some woods might be more expensive than some cheaper metals.

You might be able to search on-line on the topic which might on the surface seem gory, but eventually one is faced with a substantial financial dilemma so it may be worthwhile investigating this.

Ric Rupnik



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