note, these facilities DO NOT provide tours. They are available to that
university's forensic students, researchers, FBI, and law enforcement agencies.
A body farm is an
outdoor research facility that allows forensic anthropologists to study the
decomposition of human remains in a natural environment under natural
|Remains are Protected|
learning the stages of decomposition, researchers can better determine the time
and causes of death, which is especially helpful in solving cold cases – deaths
and murders that have not been solved.
also learn the speed at which a body decomposes based on the body’s age, body
size, clothing worn, cause of death, location, and environment. This
information is used by medical examiners, law enforcement, and crime scene
investigators to solve murders, suspicious deaths, and other criminal cases.
What Happens to a Body on the
When the body arrives, it will
receive a number to protect privacy and assist in record keeping. Hair and
other samples are taken before the body is moved to the outdoor research lab
and allowed to decompose. Some bodies are placed in wire cages, others are
allowed to experience the full effects of nature. Bodies may also be placed in
vehicles, campers, or submerged to aid in research for homicide investigations.
|Students Learn in the Field|
this time, students monitor and take notes on the effects of weather,
environment, insects, and scavengers on the body. It usually takes about six
months for a body to become skeletal. But again, this depends on the
circumstances, location, and effect of weather and environment on the corpse.
Skeletal remains will be
taken, cleaned, and inventoried into a permanent collection used for research
and education. Many facilities allow families to visit their loved one's
Where Do the Bodies Come From?
Body farms receive human
remains from three sources:
1. Medical examiners turn over
bodies that have not been claimed.
2. Family members may donate a
loved one’s body.
3. People complete a pre-donor
consent form to donate their bodies after death.
The First Body Farm
Forensic Anthropology Center –
first body farm was started at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville by Dr.
William Bass. Bass, a forensic anthropologist, joined the Tennessee Medical
Examiner’s office but realized he didn’t understand how physical remains
decayed. He started the first “body farm” outside of Knoxville in 1972 with one
body on a 2.5-acre wooded lot where he intended to study human decomposition in a
variety of settings.
1987, Bass had founded the Forensic Anthropology Center (ARF) where students
could learn more about forensic anthropology. Today, around 50 bodies are
always out in the elements. Some are clothed, some naked, some are placed in
potential crime scene locations, like cars, woods, and underwater.
students at U of T learn that numerous factors can affect the deterioration of
a body including moisture, temperature, sun, shade, soil chemistry, and insect
activity. They keep records and observe the body’s decomposition process over
the four stages: fresh, bloat, decay, and dry.
Besides educating students,
AFR trains members of NCIS and the FBI’s Evidence Recovery Team in
scene-of-the-crime skills and other techniques. The facility is now researching
the effects of bodies found in mass graves.
ARF has studied more than
1,800 bodies. The Tennessee facility is also home to 1,700 modern skeletal
remains, the largest collection in the world.
U of T receives more than 100
donated bodies each year.
If you are interested in
learning how to donate your body here, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Body Farm Number Two
Western Carolina University –
Cullowhee, North Carolina
|Lab at FOREST|
Forensic Osteology Research Station (FOREST) was established in 2007, making it the
second body farm in the U.S. The grounds are at Cullowhee, North Carolina, near
the Great Smoky Mountains, located at an altitude of 2,271 feet above sea level.
This altitude offers different effects on the decomposition of bodies like
temperatures, humidity, and animal scavengers.
FOREST has three educational
1. The study of decomposition
and taphonomy, the study of fossilization.
2. Systematic location and
recovery of human remains
3. Human skeletal biology
has a twice-yearly cadaver dog training program. Cadaver dogs learn how to
locate bodies that have been underwater and in shallow graves along with bodies
hidden in mountainous terrain, and bodies disposed of in buildings and
vehicles. Cadaver dogs are used to assist law enforcement in locating and
recovering a body more quickly.
This facility is also studying
the degradation rates of nuclear DNA in soft tissues and bone. To donate, contact email@example.com
Largest Body Farm in the U.S.
Forensic Anthropology Research
Facility - Texas State University, San Marcos, TX
State University is the home of Texas State Forensic Anthropology Research
Facility (FARF), which began in 2008. It is the largest body farm in the
country, composed of 26-acres for research purposes. Fifty bodies are left out
in the elements at any one time for study.
FARF allows students to study the
decomposition of human remains, many placed in 2-foot cages where only insects,
weather, and bacteria will affect them. Remains are also left without
protection so researchers can study the effects scavengers have on the body.
Students then learn how the bodies interact with their total environment. These
findings can assist in solving cold cases.
Remains may also be used in
several workshops including Identifying Human Bones, K9 Human Remains
Detection, Human Remains Recovery Course, and Skeletal Death Investigation.
| Body in Cage to Protect It|
TSU skeletal collection allows students to study the effects of different
causes of death and how it affects the body’s skeleton.
are also offered throughout the year for numerous agencies including the
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Kentucky Criminalistic Academy, and the
Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The Forensic Anthropology
Center accepts the donation of bodies for scientific purposes. Those bodies
will stay at the ranch facility. However, families are allowed to visit the
remains. Currently, there are more than 4,000 registered pre-donors. For
information on donating your remains, contact FACTS@txstate.edu
Complex for Forensic
– Carbondale, Illinois
Complex for Forensic Anthropology Research (CFAR) at Southern Illinois
University in Carbondale, Illinois is an outdoor research laboratory that
focuses on research, training, and the study of forensic anthropology.
|Students Keep Track of Decay Rate|
study the rate and pattern of decaying bodies from the local climate and insect
activity. CFAR students also study body disposal and how it affects the remains
and decomposition for forensic purposes.
facility works with medio-legal agencies in body recovery, trauma analysis,
skeletal research, and court testimony. SIU
offers non-credit short courses, one-day training sessions for law enforcement
and professional organizations, and traditional semester forensic anthropology
and taphonomy classes.
information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
your body to aid in the study of forensic research investigations and cold
cases is a noble option. This
is also seen as a “green alternative” to embalming and traditional burial. And
these facilities offer an alternative for those who cannot afford burial or
and state laws control how and where human remains and tissue
|Taking Notes of Body Locations|
be studied and stored. These
facilities operate in the same manner of any other scientific tissue donation
system. There is paperwork to identify the remains, and the transfer from a
relative to the facility, which allows it to take possession of the body.