How long does it take for a corpse to decompose?

The moment a person dies, their body begins to fall apart as their cells shrink and bacteria enter. But how long does it take for the body to completely decompose?

Although the decomposition process begins within minutes of death, there are a number of variables, including ambient temperature, soil acidity, and coffin material, that can affect how long a body remains skeletal. However, on average, a body buried in a typical coffin usually begins to decay within a year, but it takes up to ten years for it to completely decompose, leaving only the skeleton, said Daniel Wescott, director of the Center for Forensic Anthropology at the State University. Texas.

According to Nicholas Passalacqua, assistant professor at Western Carolina University’s Forensic Osteology Research Station, a body buried without a coffin, unprotected from insects and other elements, usually turns into its skeleton within five years. And the decomposition itself is quite simple. Once death occurs and the supply of oxygenated blood stops, cells die in a process called autolysis. Cells release enzymes (especially those found in lysosomes containing digestive enzymes) that break down the cells themselves, as well as carbohydrates and proteins, according to study. The Cell: A Molecular Approach.

According to the book Postmortem Evaluation (StatPearls Publishing, 2022), putrefaction, the decomposition of organic material in the absence of oxygen by bacteria, fungi, or other organisms, can turn areas of body skin green up to about 18 hours after death. This happens at the same time that bacteria in the abdomen multiply rapidly, resulting in the formation of gases that cause bloating and bad breath. The putrefaction process is accelerated when the body is in a hot environment, so human remains are often kept in refrigerators until burial.

According to the Post Mortem Evaluation of Changes, at this stage of the edema, the skin may flake off and greenish-black blood vessels can be seen through the skin approximately 24 to 48 hours after death. Eventually the swelling subsides, and in a process known as black rot, the organs and tissues of the body soften, and life forms such as insects and microbes feed on the remaining soft tissues, leaving skeletal remains. At this stage, decomposition slows down significantly. [الهيكلية]According to the Postmortem Evaluation of Change, skeletal remains take years or decades to decay.

To slow down putrefaction, embalmers could drain the blood and other fluids from the corpse and replace them with embalming fluids that they injected into the veins. These chemicals, which act as preservatives, stop the activity of bacteria that destroy the body. While mummification is a common practice, some religions forbid it as it is considered desecration of the body.

And if the coffin is buried in acidic soil, it will corrode faster, exposing the body to the elements, including insects, that stimulate the decomposition process.

Source: Living Science