How Long Does it Take For a Body to Decompose Without Embalming?

Find out how long it takes for a body to decompose without embalming and answer any other question you have about the process. Looking into this fascinating subject has brought up more than one surprise.

After twelve hours, the internal tissues start to decay. However, complete decomposition of the body can vary and take weeks if buried at sea to hundreds of years if buried in ice.

The rest of the article will go into detail about the factors surrounding the decomposition of a body.

Do hair and nails still grow after death?

Internal tissues start to decay after about 12 hours, resulting in skin shrinkage and pulling back from the skeleton. The skin shrinkage is the reason that the hair and nails still seem like they are growing after death.

Why do some bodies decompose faster than others?

Where the body is buried is responsible for the rate of decomposition. Bodies buried at sea are kept moist, which is ideal for decomposition. Whereas bodies buried underground in hot, arid climates are dry and not prone to decompose.

Is there anything else that affects the decomposition?

How the person dies will also affect the decomposition. If the body is cut up, this would speed up decomposition. Where the person is buried affects decomposition, so acidic soil increases the rate while freezing temperatures will decrease the rate.

What happens to your body when you die?

Once the heart stops, and blood is no longer pumping through your body, the cells immediately start dying due to a lack of oxygen. Cells in the brain die within minutes, while cells in the skin may not die until 24 hours later.

Why does the body look like it is bruised after death?

Since the blood is no longer being evenly pumped around the body, the blood will pool in the body parts that are closest to the ground. This pooling of blood causes most of the body to look pale while the engorged parts appear bruised.

What is rigor mortis?

Rigor mortis is the stiffening of the body muscles due to chemical changes in their myofibrils. The myofibrils are rod-like organelle of a muscle cell, and their main function is to perform muscle contraction.

What are the stages of decay?

There are five stages of decay: autolysis, putrefaction, black putrefaction, fermentation, and dry decay. These five stages of decay happen to everyone but the rate for each stage varies depending upon where the body is buried.

What is the first stage of decay?

The first stage, or autolysis, of human decomposition, begins immediately after death. The body has no way of getting oxygen or removing wastes once blood circulation and respiration cease. Cell membranes rupture due to excess carbon dioxide causes an acidic environment.

What is the second stage of decay?

The second stage, or putrefaction, of human decomposition, begins once the gut bacteria start eating their way through the body. The body will smell rotten and a green patch or blister will often appear on the belly.

What is the third stage of decay?

The third stage, or black putrefaction, of human decomposition, begins once the body turns black from the bacteria. At this point, the bacteria have eaten away at the corpse so much that the body cave sin on itself as the gases from the bacteria escape.

What is the fourth stage of decay?

The fourth stage, or fermentation, of human decomposition, begins once the body begins to dry out and mold grows on the body. There is a strong sour-like odor.

What is the fifth stage of decay?

The fifth stage, or dry decay, of human decomposition, begins once the body has completely dried out, thus creating an inhospitable environment for mold and bacteria. This leads to a drastic slowdown of decay.

Why is it important to know how a body decays?

How a body decays is extremely important in homicide cases. Knowing the stage of decay that the body is at will allow the investigator to determine when the murder happened. It is also important to know where and how the victim died.

What speeds up the process of decay?

There are a couple of things that drastically speed up the process of decay, such as scavenging animals and insects. The animals and insects break the body into smaller pieces, so more area is exposed to mold and bacteria.

What is an “average” time of decay?

If the body is buried six feet under the ground and in ordinary soil, it usually takes eight to twelve years for the body to decompose to a skeleton. This assumes the body is not placed inside a coffin, which will slow the process down, especially a solid oak coffin.

Does the type of body affect decomposition?

Several factors that will affect decomposition, such as height, fat percentage, and muscle mass. Bones take very long to degrade, so a tall individual will take longer to break down. If there is a greater amount of fat and muscle, this will delay decomposition.

What is an example of a body that took a very long time to decay?

Otzi, the Iceman, was found buried in the ice. He was determined to have lived some 5000 years ago. The body was covered in ice shortly after his death, thus causing the preservation.

Will your body decompose in space?

Due to the lack of oxygen in space, your body will not decompose in the normal way. If your body were in a spacesuit, it would decompose until there was oxygen. However, if there were no source of heat, the body would freeze.

Why wouldn’t someone want to be embalmed?

Some people avoid embalming due to religious or personal beliefs, while other people avoid embalming because embalming is very toxic to the soil that the corpse is buried in.

Can I still have a funeral if I am not embalmed?

You can still have a funeral if not embalmed. But, if embalming is not chosen to preserve the body to ensure there is time for viewing from family and friends, the body should be kept in a cooler room to ensure the decay process is as slow as possible.

We recently wrote an article about Why Do We Bury Bodies?