It has become a major problem. Why corpses in Portugal are being massively dug up lately

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It has become a serious problem. Why corpses in Portugal are being massively dug up lately

The tradition of exhuming bodies of the 20th century helped to bring to light an unusual phenomenon – natural mummification.

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An unusual crisis has arisen in Portugal. A stream of human bodies appeared in the country, not decomposing after burial. The reason for this is unknown. But when the bodies of the dead are exhumed, natural mummification is observed, writes Science Alert.

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Portuguese law requires regular excavation of the remains. He began acting in the 1960s. It was created to save more space due to the overcrowding of the city's cemeteries. Now the inhabitants of the country must pack the skeletons of relatives in special boxes and transfer them to another place after exhumation.

However, many bodies do not decompose. Some of the remains are dug up several times and then returned further into the ground. Often relatives receive a letter about the need for exhumation after 3 years. But if there are still soft tissues on the body of the deceased, it is returned back. This procedure can be repeated indefinitely until the body decomposes completely – even decades.

According to the latest data, between 55% and 64% of human bodies in Porto did not decompose even between 2006 and 2015. The executive director of Portugal's national funeral association noted that for the first time, families are doing well, but then it gets worse. Relatives can be hurt by natural mummification. It occurs when the body dries up so quickly that decomposition is out of the question. But the reason why this happens in Portugal has not yet been found.

It has become a serious problem. Why have bodies been dug up in Portugal lately

 It has become a serious problem. Why are corpses in Portugal being dug up en masse lately

Although there have been attempts. Silva Bessa and colleagues studied this issue as part of their PhD thesis. They took samples of bodies and soil with the consent of families from 5 cemeteries. This helped to learn that even in the same area there can be bodies with different conditions: some are completely skeletonized, others are still decomposing, and some are mummified from head to toe. Silva also tested 8 soil properties that affect decomposition. But she didn't find anything. Next, she plans to test whether the substances that people have consumed during their lives affect the decomposition.

Forensic science teacher Tristan Krap noted that bodies cannot decompose for 3 years. He suggested that the average person would need five. He compared the human body to a “huge biobomb” that injects tissue and bacteria into the complex ecosystem of soil. Krap suggested that one factor influencing decomposition could be an individual's overall size, muscle mass, and fat level.

“This has a social impact, which is a big enough deal for my country,” she said. Silva Bessa, commenting on the problems with mummification. She plans to continue her work in the future.

In recent years, many crematoriums have appeared in Portugal, but burying people in the soil is an important tradition.