Researchers studying the process of decomposition in a body after death from natural causes found that, without any external “assistance,” human remains can change their position. This discovery has important implications for forensic science.
Even after death, human remains do not stop moving, researchers have found.

Often, forensic scientists will assume that the position in which they find a dead body is the one that the person was in at the time of death — unless, that is, there is evidence that external factors, such as scavengers or a perpetrator, may have altered it.

However, new research led by Alyson Wilson — from Central Queensland University in Rockhampton, Australia — now suggests that human bodies can actually be somewhat restless after death.

This discovery — which Wilson and colleagues have not yet reported in a paper they have published — is linked to a larger project, concerning the use of time-lapse imaging techniques to estimate the time since death. This latter project’s findings appear in Forensic Science International: Synergy.

For the research, the investigators had access to a donated human body — “a mature male who died of natural causes.”

The researchers recorded the body’s full decomposition within the premises of the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER), the only body farm in Australia.

Researchers use such facilities to investigate how human bodies decompose — or remain preserved — under different conditions.

The findings from research projects such as the current one often help forensic scientists develop more accurate ways of determining essential information — including time or place of death — at a crime scene.