Bodies Turning To Dust

I realize that such factors as size of the body, characteristics of the soil, and general climate would play an important role in the process, but ball-park figure, how long would it take a body sans casket buried in the ground to succomb to rot, worms, bacteria, etc to the extent that a person digging in that spot would not realize that a body had been buried there?

I covered this to some extent here:

Haglund, William & Sorg, Marcella, Advances in Forensic Taphonomy: Method, Theory, and Archeological Perspective (2001)

Haglund, William & Sorg, Marcella, Forensic Taphonomy: The Postmortem Fate of Human Remains (1997)

both of which are cited in the report, are excellent resources.

IIRC, **gabriella ** recently said that after about 30 years, it’d be pretty tough to recognize the remains, or something similar to that.

gabriela has only a single ‘l.’ Sorry.

And it was 70 years–not 30:

Heck I’ve ambled round a dig of a local Roman graveyard, the skeletons were at least 1600 years old, yet they were in pretty good condition

  • from memory those ones were not in lead coffins

I suppose it depends on the soil etc, but bones seem to hang around.

You mean as in no bones at all? In that case it can be thousands of years, just look at all the bones that have been found around the world, many are not put in anything except a hole and are still found. The soil and climate will have a lot to do with how long bones will last. I believe that an acidic soil will destroy a body much faster.

My son and I often bury dead animals that we find. Our cat is quite the hunter and we have buried a few mice and moles. A few months later we would look for the bones and find none. No hair either. This summer we buried a dead squirrel. After two months we found a few bones, a skull and some hair. It amazed me how fast these things rot away. Mind you the bones are small. Given the scale difference between these organisms and humans, it does not surprise me that a human could completely decompose in as little as 20 years.
A lot would depend on the soil, moisture and temperature.