Anthropologist William M. Bass started the famous University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility, known as the Body Farm, in 1971. It was the first of its kind, making possible a systematic study of the decomposition of human remains in various natural settings. Before the Body Farm, there had been no advances in the study of decomposition since the 13th century. It has inspired several novels, and the results of Body Farm research appear in movies and television shows such as CSI, as well as in high-profile crime stories in the international news media. Research from the Body Farm has produced many advances in medical knowledge, post-mortem information and new technologies that aid law enforcement agencies in crime scene techniques, body recovery, determination of time of death, identification of bodies through skeletal remains, and more. Today, thanks to Dr. Bass and his researchers, five body farms exist in the United States. Information on more than 3400 cases in the Forensic Data Bank has been instrumental in helping scientists document change in the human population. The Bass Donated Skeletal Collection, the nation’s largest collection of contemporary skeletons, offers researchers new opportunities to study skeletal variations, pathology and the effects of trauma. The Body Farm does not offer tours, but the staff does give lectures to schools, civic groups and general audiences. The facilities are available to qualified researchers, and the staff provides courses throughout the year for several law enforcement and research agencies, including the FBI and the National Forensic Academy.
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