Unlocking the Forensic Secrets of Decaying Corpses

Rene Ebersole in Undark:

The elderly woman was sprawled on her back in the dirt, head resting to one side, elbows bent as though she was about to prop herself up. Dead three months now, her face was no longer recognizable. Her skin had thinned to a gossamer shroud over bone. She was among more than 150 corpses scattered beneath the trees, rotting in the open air or covered in plastic, on roughly three wooded acres.

To an outsider, the scene might look like a serial killer’s dumping ground, but it was just another day at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Anthropology Research Facility, popularly known as the “body farm,” the first of only a handful of such facilities in the world where researchers study the science of human decay and law enforcement officers train to recover human remains at crime scenes.

The dead woman was there to play her part in a developing frontier in forensic crime solving: analyzing and interrogating the suite of trillions of microorganisms and other creatures that are witness to our deaths.

More here.