Thursday, May 24, 2007


Time has an interesting piece on the problems that Texas State University is having in trying to get approvals to site a "body farm" where human bodies can be left to decompose in the open for research in forensic anthropology. Even the nearby airport objects that it would attract vultures that might collide with airplanes!

The article goes on to discuss the original body farm established by Dr. William Bass at the University of Tennessee. I got to meet and work with Dr. Bass briefly in my first paid job in archaeology in 1973. I was working as a field technician for the Tennessee Division of Archaeology on the excavation of a prehistoric Mississippian farmstead in suburban Nashville. We had uncovered the remains of a wattle-and-daub house that had burned, ensuring that it was pretty well preserved. I particularly remember we found mud dauber wasp nests that had been in the house that had been fired by the blaze and contained carbonized larvae.

Dr. Bass came over from Knoxville to take a look at some burials we had found. He's a somewhat crusty individual, and I remember being a little offended when he insisted we quit wasting our time on the house and root around the site to find more burials for him.


Heidi the Hick said...

I saw a documentary on TV about this place, and I admit, as much as the idea is creepy and repulsive, it is a necessary facility.

The treasure hunter in me finds it fascinating actually...

Gregg Barrow said...

The books “Dead Men Do Tell Tales” (Dr. William R. Maples) and "Deaths Acre" (Dr. Bass) have become interesting, almost compulsory, reading for handlers working/training HRD (Human Remains Detection) dogs.

A local handler for the Fed’s spent several days in Tennessee at the body farm and had a blast. She shared a lot of what she had learned when she got back, but enjoyed it a little too much for my liking. :-)

A second handler was working on getting a visit approved prior to loosing his dog in a tragic accident.

A facility here would be an asset; it will be interesting to see how it pans out.