rusquen (rusquen) wrote in little_details,

Killing to order and subsequent exhumation

Setting: Fantasy world; no gunpowder. Continental climate.
Edit: make that humid continental climate, like American Midwest/ Central Canada, or southern Siberia. Also, the soil is supposed to be quite fertile, probably chernozemic.

Situation: Characters exhume a body.


1. It’s a body of a formerly athletic white man aged 25-30. He died from a crossbow arrow (bolt) in the back. Important: he didn't get to see who killed him.

2. The arrow was probably a removable-blade broadhead, because the arrowhead got so stuck in the wound nobody bothered to cut it out.

3. The guy was killed about 5 months ago, in April; it is now end of August.

Characters find the wound and get the arrow out.

At that point, magic kicks in and the corpse comes back to life, but I'd like everything leading up to that moment to be more or less scientific. I'm trying not to focus on disturbing details too much, but I do need to be aware of them so I can set the scene up realistically.


1. Initial state of the body - and the grave

I googled “dead body after 5 months”, “how does a dead body look after 5 months”, “dead body third-stage maggots”, and variations thereof.

Discovered that:

- most insects are gone after two weeks or so (thank God!)

- after 4 weeks or so the face is no longer recognizable

- somewhere between 4-6 month adipocere begins to form if body is in a dump place

But it all seems to be heavily dependant on where the body is kept, so, basically, I’m looking for ways to end up with as clean and dry a corpse as possible. Also, what would that “clean and dry” corpse actually look, feel, and smell like.

The thing is, this guy wasn’t rich, so the funeral was quite simplistic. Most likely his friends just stuffed him into a wooden coffin the way they found him. They didn't wash it, other than maybe the face, and left most of the clothes on. If it helps, I could work with an underground crypt, but it would be a common crypt, where he’d just get dumped together with a bunch of other dead bodies in various stages of decomposition - so it probably wouldn’t help with preservation, would it?

2. Getting the arrowhead out

This ties in with the state of the body. The characters know beforehand the guy was shot in the back, and, since he got buried in clothing, they can probably locate the wound without too much trouble via torn fabric and bloodstains.

Since I need the guy to have died quickly, I’m thinking the arrow struck from the left and reached the heart. I’m not sure what the arrowhead got stuck in, though - muscle tissue? Ribs? Is the muscle tissue all gone now after 5 month and the arrowhead will easily come out, or are they going to have to cut it out with a knife, possibly breaking bones? Is this going to stink to heaven, or will there be just an unpleasant whiff? Again, the easier and “cleaner” the procedure can be made, the better.

Googling “get arrow out of dead body”, “cut arrow out of dead body”, “extract arrowhead”, “extract arrowhead out of corpse” didn’t yield anything helpful.

Any help is greatly appreciated!
Tags: ~forensics (misc), ~forensics: corpses, ~funerals, ~medicine: injuries (misc), ~medicine: injuries: stab wounds

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