Bodies Left to Decompose in Texas Field—for Science

Students study decomposition at the 'Body Ranch'

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 21, 2013 8:37 AM CDT | Updated Aug 25, 2013 6:34 AM CDT

(Newser) – Donating one's body to science has rarely sounded so gruesome. CBS DFW shines a light on Texas' "Body Ranch," the final destination for people who have decided to skip the graveyard in favor of a different final resting place. Here, naked bodies are left out in the open, and their decomposition is studied by students at Texas State University in San Marcos. The school's Forensic Anthropology Center calls the 26-acre plot of land an "outdoor human decomposition research laboratory" and notes that it's the largest in the world. (KEYE TV reports that there are three other such facilities in the US.)

The kinds of things researchers have learned, per center head Danny Wescott: "One of the first things a vulture will do is take the eyes out." Amazingly, even with statements like that, people are signing up, with roughly 40 bodies studied since the center opened in 2008 and 90 living people planning to go there when their time is up. It's all for the greater good, though: The insights gleaned about what happens to human remains left in the elements are ultimately put to use in courtrooms around the country. As for what ultimately happens to the skeletons, they go on to become a permanent part of the Texas State Donated Skeletal Collection.

Donated bodies to forensic science lay bare in the heat at Texas State University.
Donated bodies to forensic science lay bare in the heat at Texas State University.   (cebese)
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Inside 'Body Ranch.'   (CBS DFW)

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