“At this facility, the dead are silent helpers for the living. A bizarre but necessary kingdom.” – Patricia Cornwell
Research by Guest Topic Editor Checkitout14
A body farm is a research facility where human decomposition after death can be scientifically studied in a variety of settings. The aim is to gain a better understanding of the decomposition process, permitting the development of techniques for extracting information (such as the timing and circumstances of death) from human remains. Body farm research is particularly important within forensic anthropology and related disciplines, and has applications in the fields of law enforcement, medical examination and crime scene investigation. There are currently three such facilities in the United States with the farm at Texas State University being the largest.
Birthplace of Modern Forensics
The Anthropology Research Facility at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is more commonly referred to as “The Body Farm” and was established in 1980 by Dr. William Bass as a research facility for forensic anthropology. Modern forensics ~ and the current TV shows about crime labs such as Forensics Files, CSI, NCIS, and Bones ~ all have their foundations in the research done at The Body Farm.
Facilities in the United States
University of Tennessee – Knoxville
““[Bass is] the real-life father of forensic anthropology.”
— Michael Baden, MD, author and former chief NYC medical examiner”
The original “Body Farm” (started by William Bass) is the University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility. Dr. William M. Bass became head of the university’s anthropology department in 1971, and as official state forensic anthropologist for Tennessee he was frequently consulted in police cases involving decomposed human remains. Since no facilities existed that specifically studied decomposition, in 1981 he opened the department’s first body farm.
The University of Tennessee Body Farm is also used in the training of law enforcement officers in scene-of-crime skills and techniques.
Western Carolina University
Another facility in the United States is located at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina and is part of the Western Carolina Human Identification Laboratory. It was opened in 2006 and is run by WCU’s Forensic Anthropology program. The facility studies decomposition in the western North Carolina mountain habitat and may be used for cadaver dog training.
Texas State University
A Forensic Anthropology Research Facility was recently commissioned by the Texas State University-San Marcos Department of Anthropology and is under the direction of Dr. Michelle Hamilton, a former student of Dr. Bill Bass. The body farm is fully operational and will be part of the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State (F.A.C.T.S.).
A few examples of scientific research conducted at the Body Farm facilities :
1) Study of Skin Slippage to help determine time of death
2) Facial Reconstructions techniques:
YouTube – The Body Farm and Beyond
Information obtained from:
May I suggest?
Profile of Dr. Bill Bass
Articles by Katherine Ramsland ( TruTV Crime Library )
The Body Farm
From Counseling to Corpses
Where the Dead Serve the Living
Cutting Edge Technologies
Death’s Acre: the Film
Close to the Bone
New Chapter: Breaking Ground
New Chapter: Vultures