The amount of time required for a human body to decompose depends on a number of factors. Temperature, insect access and depth of burial have the greatest effect on decay rate.
Warmer than average temperatures will hasten the decomposition of a body by allowing greater access by scavengers. Natural enzymes and bacteria in the body, including those found in digestive juices, continue to break down tissue after death in processes called autolysis (enzymatic breakdown) and putrefaction (bacterial breakdown). When a person dies with a fever, the stomach can rupture within a few hours of death, spreading enzymes and digestive juices throughout the body and precipitating decay.
Cooler temperatures slow autolysis and putrefaction. Flies and carnivorous animals will be slowed by cooler temperatures as well. Freezing temperatures inhibit the chemical breakdown of the body, in some cases preserving it.
Burial Time Frame
Burying a body protects it from scavengers and carnivores. Bodies can be reduced to skeletons in a few months to a year when buried at a depth of 1 to 2 feet, while a body buried 6 feet deep can take 10 to 12 years to skeletonize. A body buried at sea---given warmer temperatures---can skeletonize within two to four weeks.
- Photo Credit skeleton image by jeancliclac from Fotolia.com
About Liver Functions in the Human Body
The human liver is an organ that has many functions and jobs within the body. It is a part of the digestive...
How Long Can the Human Body Survive Without Food or Water?
The human body cannot survive without food and water for long periods of time. In fact, according to SurvivalTopics.com, the longest a...
The Time Frame of Alcohol Detox
Long term use of alcohol and alcohol dependency results in withdrawal (or detoxification) symptoms once you stop using alcohol. The symptoms vary...
Body Parts & Functions
The human body is the entire structure of the human organism and its main parts are: head, neck, trunk and limbs. Each...
Why Is Radioactive Decay Important?
Radiation from the sun, the earth and the atmosphere are all a part of the natural environment. Radioactive decay can occur inside...
Alcohol Metabolism After Death
Alcohol found in the body after death may have come from a bottle, or it may come from the body itself. Normally...
Normal Range of the Human Pulse Rate
Pulse rate refers to vibration in an artery produced by the heart's action, and counted in beats per minute. Human pulse rates...