Xi-feng (xi_feng) wrote in little_details,

The effects of space on a corpse -and- amputation/cauterisation scarring on African American skin

Hi guys! First post here, two questions to save space. They’re both under cuts as they might be considered a little graphic, especially the second one.

I haven’t the foggiest how I’d even begin researching this so I’m turning to ask for help here. The scenario is: three alien bodies (a female and two of her male guards) are released into space from their ship after death, in some sort of holding container (not necessarily airtight) to keep them all together. Given a phenomenal amount of luck that they don’t float right into the middle of a sun or get caught in the gravitational pull of a planet, what would be the effect of space on their decomposition? I was thinking that the airless surroundings might work like ‘vacuum-packing’ them, in a way, and slow or stop decomposition completely? (Embalming practices could go either way, depending on whether or not it would be helpful to the plot)

What would their condition be like after twenty years? After two hundred? Two thousand? I’m not really looking for them to be particularly pretty by that time, but ideally they need to be in good enough condition for the scientists who find them to be able to extract genetic material and run tests. This is set far in the future so I can fudge the level of technology to do so, if their remains would still be viable as test subjects.

And the second question:

(My disclaimer here: the character in question is not African American, or even human – he’s the same alien species as in the scenario above, but this is the closest equivalent to his skin tone so I’m hoping someone can help me in that context)

The scenario is: An alien colony living on a very primitive planet in terms of technology or medicine – when my character is around four years old he gets into an accident resulting in the need for his parents to amputate his left arm at the elbow in order to let him survive. They’re working with very primitive tools: only a knife to do the actual cutting, and an open flame to cauterise the wound afterwards (his species is insanely hardy and resilient, meaning that he had a good chance of surviving this) My question is: what would his arm look like, once he reached adulthood? I’ve done a lot of research already, but the three main elements I’m trying to combine are:

1. Scarring from arm amputation in societies with little/no modern medical care
2. Scarring from old-fashioned open-flame/heated metal cauterisation techniques
3. How 1 and 2 would look on African American skin.

I’ve managed to find some image sources for point one, the best so far being this: (graphic picture warning. Seriously, don’t look if amputations aren’t your thing) and I’ve looked at a lot of sites on scarification in some tribes in Africa and elsewhere for general knowledge of how superficial scarring might look. I know African American skin is more susceptible to scarring than Caucasian skin, though I’d still be interested in knowing what these types of scars might look like in this case – would they be darker than the rest of his skin? Lighter? Would there be a texture to them? Point 2 is what’s really getting me, though: all the images I find seem to focus on modern chemical cauterisation, which wouldn’t have been available to my character. So (after a lot of tl;dr!) any opinions anyone could give me about how points 1, 2 and 3 would look when combined would really be very helpful, as well as any changes that might occur in his arm as he grows up, gets bigger and bulks out physically. Thank you, everyone!
Tags: ~forensics: corpses, ~medicine: injuries (misc), ~science: astronomy

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