skull, head, bone @ Pixabay

How long does it take to skeletonize a body on the ground?

That is one question that forensic anthropologists and archaeologists often ponder.

Skeletalization refers to the processes by which flesh is decomposed, leaving only bones behind.

It’s a process that can happen in as short as days or weeks depending on environmental factors like temperature and humidity.

Forensic scientists have found ways of estimating how long skeletalization will take using these variables.

But there are many other factors at play too!

skeleton, cute, bone @ Pixabay

Experts have found that in any given environment, it takes about a week for flesh to decay enough so remains are no longer identifiable.

In warmer conditions of around 30 degrees Celsius (86 F), this can happen within three days.

While at colder temperatures near freezing, there’s no set time frame as the processes slow considerably below those levels.

It also depends on moisture – whether or not bones stay dry will impact how quickly they break down and become unrecognizable.

If we want to answer our question more specifically, we could use an equation developed by forensic scientist .

William Bass which estimates skeletalization rates based on environmental factors like temperature and humidity: S = 0.56T + 20H+ .003M where “S” is the number.


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