Death's Acre by Bill Bass

Collected research on the decomposition of human corpses


The book is written about creation of the Body Farm. The beginning of the memoir focuses on some of Bass's trickier cases to demonstrate his need for more information about the science of forensics. Later, Bass writes about how scientific analysis of Body Farm corpses has helped anthropologists solve some of the more difficult cases of their careers.

Decomposition of Human Corpses

To start off, the heart stops beating and human cells and tissues stop recieving oxygen and die. After hours, the body will stiffen and lose its internal heat. As cells die, bacteria will begin breaking down the body, causing it to develop its gruesome look and smell. In this stage, the body becomes great place for many insect to nest and lay their eggs. Maggots emerge from the eggs and eat their way through the body, as they release enzymes to speed up the process. The environment in which a dead body is placed also affects its rate of decay. For instance, bodies in water decompose twice as fast as those left unburied on land. Decomposition is slowest underground, especially in surfaces that prevent air from reaching the body since most bacteria require oxygen to survive.

The Accuracy

I believe that the book had very accurate information due to the fact that the man that wrote the book, Bill Bass, recorded his thoughts from his first-hand expereience with a body farm. Bass is also a very experienced and respected forensic scientist.

My Opinion

I very much enjoyed Death's Acre since I think it is about an interesting and intriguing topic. Bass and his editors skillfully wrote the book in a way that made it understandable towards many different audiences while still keeping the text at an adult level. Also, throughout the book, the author's voice was very prominant--as if we having a conversation in my living room.