Researchers at a ‘human body farm’ have discovered that dead bodies move ‘significantly’ during the decomposition process. Scientists from the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER) made the discovery.
The scientists have claimed that the discovery is likely to change the investigation of death scenes. If true, it could have far-reaching implications for police.
Before the revelation, investigators believed a dead body was found how it died. Now, there is a reason to consider otherwise.
Researcher Alyson Wilson used time-lapse cameras to study a cadaver decomposing in the elements outside of Sydney for 17 months.
After studying and photographing the movements of a corpse over 17-months, Alyson Wilson told AFP on Friday that she found humans don’t rest in peace.
In one case study, arms that began held close to the body ended up flung out to the side.
“We think the movements relate to the process of decomposition, as the body mummifies and the ligaments dry out,” she said.
To carry out her unusual form of people watching, Wilson took the three-hour flight from Cairns to Sydney every month to check on the progress of a corpse.
Her subject was one of 70 bodies stored at the Southern Hemisphere’s only “body farm”. The farm sits at a secret bushland location on the outskirts of Australia’s largest city.
Officially known as the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER), the farm is carrying out pioneering research into postmortem movement.
Wilson and her colleagues were trying to improve a commonly used system for estimating the time of death. They used time-lapse cameras and in the process found that dead human bodies move around significantly.
Her findings were recently published in the journal “Forensic Science International: Synergy.”
A better understanding of these movements and the rate of decomposition could be used by police to estimate the time of death more accurately.
She hopes the knowledge could, for example, narrow down the number of missing persons that could be linked to an unidentified corpse.
A better understanding of the postmortem movement could also help to reduce the incorrect cause of death or misinterpretation of a crime scene.
“They’ll map a crime scene, they’ll map the victim’s body position, they’ll map any physical evidence which is found, and they can understand the cause of death.”
The Central Queensland University criminology graduate says she started her unique project after a trip to Mexico to help classify Mayan-era skeletal remains.
“I was fascinated with death from a child and was always interested in how the body breaks down after death.”
“I guess that comes about from being raised on a farm and seeing livestock die and watching that process,” she said.
“Once I observed a movement in a previous study, I started researching and couldn’t find anywhere in the world that looks at quantifying the movement, so I thought OK, I’m going to do this.”