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The importance of insects in the destruction of cadavers

The importance of insects in the destruction of cadavers

Ann Igiene 37(8): 497-514

[longdash]In many countries, the increasing space devoted to cemeteries near large cities is an important economic problem, one solution of which would be to accelerate decomposition of cadavers by suitable methods of burial and thus permit a more rapid evacuation of graves. In Rome, where bodies are sealed in a double casket of wood and zinc, exhumation cannot be allowed under 25 yrs., whereas in Naples, where a wooden case alone is used, which it is the custom to perforate with the gravedigger's pick at moment of burial, exhumation is permitted after 12 months for babies and 20 months to 3 years for adults. The author examined dead guinea pigs buried in various types of boxes and for different periods, and concludes that the natural process of decomposition is greatly accelerated where larvae of insects can obtain access to the cadaver, especially Anthomyia, Phora, Sarcophaga, Lucilia, Calliphora, and Cyrtoneura (Muscina). These act directly by ingesting the soft parts, and indirectly by mechanically diffusing the putrefactive bacteria. Burial is advised in caskets so arranged as to allow ingress of small larvae but prevent the exit of adult insects or gases of putrefaction.

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