The Body Farm
There’s a 5 acre body farm outside San Marcos run by Texas State University. I’ve been wanting to go out there just to see what it’s like, but I’m too chicken to actually go.
The research that they do out there is fascinating when you stop and think about it.
If a body decomposes and you’re left with bone, the bone initially is still greasy and wet because of the fat that’s in it. But after it lies on the surface — or even if its buried for a certain period of time — bacterial action takes care of the grease, and the bone becomes dry. Animals come at different times during that stage. So rats, for example, come when the bone is still greasy. Rat signatures are fairly easy to recognize because they chew the ends of the bone to get the marrow. Then after the bone is dry, squirrels come along and gnaw on the bone. So if a bone has squirrel gnawing, it’s been there at least a year. So squirrels are a time since death indicator, and squirrels tend to gnaw on the bones in the spring, apparently for the calcium for their new litter, and you can even see annual cycles of squirrel gnawing. Image: Roma Khan doing preliminary work on decomposition of cattle, Wikimedia Commons.