scorecardWhat happens to the human body after 100 years inside a coffin
  1. Home
  2. Science
  3. What happens to the human body after 100 years inside a coffin

What happens to the human body after 100 years inside a coffin

What happens to the human body after 100 years inside a coffin
LifeScience3 min read
  • Your brain is one of the first parts of your body to break down. Just a few minutes after death, its cells collapse and release water. Then other energy-guzzling organs follow.
  • That night, microbes eat through your gut and escape into the rest of your body. They release toxic gases that cause your body to bloat up and smell.
  • Most of your tissues will probably liquify. But thin skin, like on your eyelids, could dry out and mummify, while fatty areas of your body can turn into a soap-like substance called grave wax.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Your body is made up of over 200 bones, a few trillion microbes, and as many as 37 trillion cells. And while death is often thought of as the end of the line for your self, your body still has a long way to go.

It doesn't take long before your body starts to lose what makes you you. Just a few minutes after death, one of the first things to go is your brain. You see, when your heart stops beating, it halts blood flow, which is supposed to transport oxygen to your organs and tissues. So without blood, the most active, oxygen-guzzling organs and tissues go first. And the results are...moist. Because the cells that make up those organs and tissues are 70% water. Without oxygen to keep them alive, the cells self-destruct, spilling all that fluid onto the coffin floor.

By that night, an even more troubling process begins in the gut. Your dying immune system can no longer contain the trillions of hungry microbes that normally help digest the food you eat. So they escape. First, they travel from the lower intestines through your tissues, veins, and arteries. Within hours, they reach your liver and gallbladder, which contain a yellow-green bile meant for breaking down fat when you're alive. But after the microbes are through eating those organs, that bile starts to flood the body, staining it a yellow-green.

From about day two to four, the microbes are everywhere. And they're producing toxic gases, like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, which will expand and cause your body to not only bloat, but stink.

After three or four months, your yellow-green complexion has turned brownish-black because your blood vessels have deteriorated to the point that the iron inside them spills out, becoming brownish-black as it oxidizes. Also around this time, the molecular structures that hold your cells together break away, so your tissues collapse into a watery mush.

And in a little over a year, your cotton clothes disintegrate, as acidic body fluids and toxins break them down. Only the nylon seams and waistband survive. At this point, nothing dramatic happens for a while. But by a decade in, given enough moisture, the wet, low-oxygen environment sets off a chemical reaction that turns the fat in your thighs and butt to a soap-like substance called grave wax. On the other hand, drier conditions lead to mummification. That's right, you can mummify naturally. No wrappings, chemicals, or intimidating instruments required. Because throughout this entire decomposition process, water is evaporating through the thin skin on your ears, nose, and eyelids, causing them to dry out and turn black, aka mummify.

By 50 years in, your tissues will have liquefied and disappeared, leaving behind mummified skin and tendons. Eventually these too will disintegrate, and after 80 years in that coffin, your bones will crack as the soft collagen inside them deteriorates, leaving nothing but the brittle mineral frame behind. But even that shell won't last forever.

A century in, the last of your bones will have collapsed into dust. And only the most durable part of your body, your teeth, will remain. Teeth, grave wax, and some nylon threads.