A Glance at the Body Farm: the Anthropological Research Facility ...

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A Glance at the Body Farm: the Anthropological Research Facility at the University of Tennessee

By | March 2012
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A Glance at the Body Farm:
The Anthropological Research Facility at the University of Tennessee

There have been murders since the beginning of time. In the beginning, there was no way of knowing who committed the heinous acts unless you actually witnessed the murder. As technology evolved, more resources became available that would help shape and mold the criminal investigative field. If it weren’t for one man, William Bass, we would not be where we are today. His fascination with how the human body decomposes has had a tremendous impact on helping law enforcement discover how someone has died, when he/she died, and possibly lead them to who murdered the individual.

The Anthropological Research Facility at the University of Tennessee was started in May 1981 by William Bass. It began with a sixteen by sixteen foot enclosure, built by him and his students, which housed a storage building and a small porch that could accommodate about twelve bodies. They received their first donated body on May 15 and started what is known today as the Body Farm. The following morning, several graduate students and Bass delivered the corpse to the enclosed porch, took several pictures to document what it looked like, and then left it to the environment. They would return daily to document all the changes in the composition of the body, the temperature outside, and the insects that were feasting on the flesh. As gruesome as it sounds, this facility was created to help law enforcement by generating studies on how the human body decomposes when exposed to different elemental conditions. With this information, they are able to determine an approximate time of death based on the deceased’s surrounding environment.

Today, the facility covers two-and-a-half acres behind the University of Tennessee’s Medical Center. Behind the gates of this foul smelling facility, are at least forty bodies, in various situations, at any given time. Many of these scenarios are set up as...