Cantras (cantras) wrote in little_details,

Corpse decay, specifically hair

Five years after death, will a non-embalmed corpse's (chin-length) hair still be attached?
If it is, and one touched it, what would it feel like? (I'm assuming not conditioner-silky-soft, but probably also not breaking off at a touch either)
Less important: Facial skin, same questions
Even less important: level of smell, if any, through a fist-sized hole in the coffin.

Character wants to give something to a dead guy. Intends to dig down to his coffin, crack open a corner, and drop it in. And because of circumstances between them (and because this sort of thing does not make her squeamish), perhaps reach her hand/fingers through the gap to stroke his hair.

If this hair is there. And she'd know whether it's there. But of course *I* have not lived a rough and tumble life of guerrilla para-military or casual work acquaintance with graverobbers or anything interesting that would give me the knowledge she has. So I turn to you. (I'm assuming those of you with this knowledge got it in some other way, but I'm not judging ;)

Relevant environmental stuff:
Buried in a simple wood box. Nothing lined or fancy.
Not embalmed or any special treatment.
Probably a good 5-6 feet down. His best men aren't going to let the lackeys handle this burial.
Strong guy, age 50ish, fit, casual smoker, probably died of a stab to the back (Though I imagine after 5 years the difference any of that makes is pretty negligible).
Region he's buried in is mostly-dry grassland. Good farmland.

Read a bit of the Wikipedia on decomposition (Oh, wikipedia, how can you be so amazing and so useless at the same time?), various google terms of rate of decay/composition, five year corpse, +/- "hair".  Google images, actually, returned a photo of a corpse with hair still wondrously attached, (and kindof terrifying skin, but I can't judge touch-texture from a picture) but the story behind it was that no-one had claimed it from a funeral home -- so presumably embalmed(Hell, may even have been a staged photo to go with the blog post about the news story). Ditto to a bit of real-life story I remember of researchers digging someone up to investigate something -- mentioned he had great hair, but also mentioned embalming, I think? Or maybe they said he hadn't been... oh dear. Plenty of yahoo questions type answers, and a really interesting and distracting guardian article about the modern death process from declaration of death to autopsy to interment ... More info than I would ever want to sort through on what happens to a body within the first 2 weeks or so (thank heavens this guy is long dead, I suppose?). googled a bit about touching and just got some taboos and links to the body museum (and instructions for making some terrifying looking skeletons for halloween).

Not a lot of info on corpse touching. Wonder why. >.>

Edit: You lovies are amazing. This post from the blog linked byvanessagalore  was a big deal. Having it pointed out that hair doesn't really decay very much on its own is also helpful. I knew that. /facepalm
Tags: ~forensics: corpses, ~funerals, ~science (misc)

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