How Long Does A Human Body Take To Decompose (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 24 -72 hours

There are 5 stages of decomposition:

Initial Decay: It is the initial period of two to three days. Here, there is no real evidence of decomposition. Putrefaction: body begins to bloat as there is a building-up of gases. The accumulation and release of gases result in stinking in the body. Blood vessels appearing as red then change to dark streaks over a body.

Black Putrefaction: This is active decay. Most of the body’s mass lost here. It lasts for approximately 10 to 25 days. In the end, only the bone remains. Fermentation: The left-out matter now dries out. Now, no odors are left. What left is, a waxy coating known as adipocere. This is advanced decay. Dry Decay; Remains completely dries out. So, the process is known as Skeletonization State. This can occurs in as little as two weeks to two years.

How Long Does A Human Body Take To Decompose

Body decomposition starts as soon as a person dies. The ‘Healthy Bacteria’ which gets nutrients from the bloodstream starts to feed on the body for their own survival. Within two days, bacteria eat the pancreas and intestine so disintegrating the organs. After this, bacteria multiply in the rest of the body, consuming other organs. So, at this point body display the proof of decomposition.

It takes approximately four minutes from the time a person has breathed their last due to the shortage of oxygen in their body. The levels of carbon dioxide and acidity rise in the blood flowing through the veins, building toxicity and poisoning the cells. Hence, enzymes present in cells begin to eat the cells. Brain cells die in minutes.

After few hours of death, gravity causes blood to accumulate in those parts of the body which a near to the ground and this process is known as Liver Mortis. At the same moment, Rigor Mortis begins. So, causing joints and muscles of a body to become stiff after a few hours of death. After about 12 hours Rigor Mortis reverses as till then internal tissues start to shrink. So, skin starts to shrinks, and pull back from the skeleton.

One month after death, the body starts to liquefy. For a preserved body buried in a coffin deep inside 6 feet will take 50 years to turn to bones. For a preserved body, it takes about 50 years to reduce to a bare skeleton. But, when a body is left out in sun rays or hot dry temperature, can turn to a skeleton within two months.

Type Of EnvironmentTime Taken For Decomposition
Hot within two weeks
Cool takes months

Why Does A Human Body Take So Long To Decompose

Basically, there are many factors that affect the process of decomposing a body:

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Basically, what mostly affects decomposition is temperature. High temperatures can hasten the stages of decomposition. As by sources, bacteria grows faster in a warm environment. Also, heat enhances the breakdown of organic matter. In a cooler environment decomposition rate slows down. Also, the presence of oxygen makes the rate of decomposition fast enough. So, if oxygen is absent then the decomposition rate slows down. Aerobic decomposition is three times faster than Anaerobic decomposition.

The absence of insects decreases the rate of decomposition of the body. Scavengers neutralize the environment by eating the dead remains. Embalming (Preservation) slows down the decomposition when it has to be viewed for forensic or funeral but it does not stop decomposition. The cause of death can impact the rate of the decomposition process. For example, violent death (death on-road) can tear or break the skin so resulting in faster decomposition of the body.

Rainfall increases the speed of the four methods but slows down the last stage. Humidity speeds up human body decomposition. Sometimes, clothes protect the body from decomposition so reducing the rate. Food is present in the digestive tract can slightly affect the rate of decomposition.

If the body rests on wood or metallic objects then its rate of decomposition decreases. A body sealed in an area (like a coffin) will be decomposing gradually. Recent reports of the National Institute of Health suggest that a larger and heavier body decays at a speed slower than that of a smaller and lighter one.


We all have two things in common: death and taxes. For death, humans share the decomposition process. Although the decomposition process is not the same for all the bodies. Our body is made up of a few trillion microbes, more than 37 trillion cells. Just a few minutes after death, the first thing which goes is our brain. When hearts stop beating, the blood stops. Hence the supply of oxygen declined in the body.

Decomposition is the process by which dead organic matter is broken down to simpler organic matter and inorganic matter ( like carbon dioxide, water, minerals, etc.) too. After death, the body undergoes several biological changes. When someone dies, their body tells the researcher and forensic experts- how. when and why they died. Sometimes death is inevitable, that is it arrives swiftly and unexpectedly.

The stages of decomposition of the body are the same for each human being but the time of decay varies with the environmental conditions. After the whole decomposition, the body changes to organic matter for the soil. Enhancing the growth of plants.


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