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These are the ones I know. All additional sources, information, or arguments are welcome.
1. The only careful revisionist study I know is Carlo Mattogno's one here:
Mattogno used three setups:
A. field oven. Incinerated 6.5kg of beef. Fuel consumption 2.63kg dry wood / kg flesh
B. open furnace. Incinerated 10.8 kg beef. Fuel consumption 3.1kg dry wood / kg flesh
C. Burning in a pit. Incinerated 15kg beef. Fuel consumption 3.5kg dry wood / kg flesh. Some fleshy remains.
Comments: 1. The beef in the third experiment was mostly organs. These have a reputation for being difficult to ignite, and may require more fuel to incinerate than other forms of flesh.
2. Mattogno claims that "in a larger furnace, such as would be needed for the cremation of a corpse of 58 kg, heat losses due to conduction, radiation, and heat of the flue gases (higher excess of air) would necessarily be higher, and thus we would also have a higher consumption of fuel." I don't see why this is so - is the percent of heat lost really higher with a larger fire? I would have assumed the opposite. He continues: "With respect to the incineration in a pit, the fuel-to-flesh ratio cannot be less than 3.5, because during the small-scale experiments thinly split and easily inflammable wood was used, and this procedure is practically impossible to use on a large scale." This also seems questionable: it's true that the rate at which a fire burns is heavily dependent on the amount of exposed surface area on the fuel, but a large fire can burn very hot once it gets started even with large pieces of fuel. Thinly split wood was necessary in Mattogno's experiment because of the small size of his fire, but I see no reason results just as good and possibly better could not be obtained with larger pieces of fuel in a larger fire.
2. Dean Irebodd burned a 12.5 pound leg of lamb in 1/3 of the holocaust with 45+135 pounds of dry wood on a grate over an open fire built between concrete pillars, and succeeded in burning almost all of its flesh.
3. The Gorini furnace, cited by Mattogno, apparently used 100-150kg of wood to incinerate a normal sized body.
4. Hindu funeral pyres - apparently 400-600 kg of wood required for an average corpse with the traditional method, with a reduction to 200-300 kg attainable with modern advanced designs.
5. There are many cases of the attempted incineration of bodies in criminal cases. I found the following in A Text-Book of Legal Medicine and Toxicology, volume 1. edited by Frederick Peterson and Walter H. Haines, 1903.
A. The Webster case. Partial incineration of a body in a coal furnace; an expert witness who testifies to his difficulty in burning the body of a pirate.
B. The Calder case: two bodies, a "great fire of logs" lit at 2PM and periodically refueled, combustion mostly accomplished by midnight and complete by daybreak, bone fragments and teeth found
1. That the efficiency is considerably better than that in Mattogno's experiments is no surprise, as a wood stove has far better efficiency than an outdoor fire or improvised oven.
2. The body was cut into pieces for efficient burning. This facilitates the drying out process and therefore improves efficiency, though it's difficult to say by how much.
3. It is unclear how complete incineration was attained. The experiment was carried out for the prosecution, and therefore had every incentive to report a low fuel consumption, so it's unlikely that they proceeded any further with the burning than necessary. Presumably they attained more or less complete incineration of the soft tissue and didn't worry too much about the bones (as was the case in the actual crime).
4. In this case and in the the testimony in the Webster case, pine performs favorably for incineration. In this case it's pine shingles, which contain pine tar or oil as a preservative, and therefore burn very hot. They are probably much better fuel than wood that just has some gasoline poured over it, because the oil or tar infuses the wood and therefore burns steadily rather than burning off in a few minutes. (This is another reason why the ratio of 1.25 pounds fuel / 1 pound flesh does not translate to our case: ordinary wood isn't infused with tar!) In the Webster testimony pitch pine, which has a high resin content, was mentioned favorably. Such wood will burn fast and hot thanks to the resin. Both Mattogno and Irebodd used oak in their experiments, which for normal purposes is absolutely first rate firewood, but it's possible that pine with high resin content is a better fuel for corpse incineration.
Description of the case:
from the article (cited in an image above) from the Transactions of the Medical Society of the State of New York, 1887, p. 417-428
There follows a inventory of the bone fragments found, which I will skip.
The question of practicality of incineration raised by the defence, and experiments conducted to address the matter:
D. The Hilton case: a "log heap," apparently days of burning, bone remnants and teeth found
E. The Bohmer case: a body disposed of in a kitchen stove.
An article conducting experiments pertaining to the practicality of such incineration
http://www2.biusante.parisdescartes.fr/ ... el&do=page
Unfortunately the author does not report the weight of his fuel but its price!
F. the experiments of Prof. Hektoen: three dismembered bodies burned in under an hour in a coal burning furnace. Fuel consumption not reported.
The forum where Roberto posted died, and so did our discussion. Some months later, he posted his reply on another forum here, but I've since lost interest in this bickering of ours, thus I didn't reply. However, re-reading his reply, I guess I could address some points of his:
Roberto wrote:Dehydrated fat is still fat, if you ask me. Fat may lose some or most of its moisture, thus acquiring a thicker consistency, without breaking down into fatty acids.
Fat does not dehydrate or lose moisture. It does not "thicken." It breaks down into other compounds. See: beef jerky.
Postmortem changes in buried bodies
In general the decomposition process is slower when the body is buried, whether in or not in a coffin, as compared to air or water. The degree of putrefaction of buried bodies is determined by a number of factors: degree of decomposition before burial, environmental temperature, whether insects or animals had access to the body before burial, lack of oxygen, depth of the burial, type of soil and whether buried in a coffin or not.
If the body is buried before postmortem decomposition takes place, putrefaction if it occurs, will do so at a much slower rate and may never reach the stage of black putrefaction. This is especially true of a body buried deep in clay soil, but well above the water table. Sandy soil will allow more oxygen and water to reach the body enhancing decomposition. However, if it has good drainage, this feature may partially offset the increase exposure to water.
If decomposition has already started before burial, it will continue after burial, the rate being principally determined by environmental temperature, shallowness of the grave, soil type and water table.
Lower environmental temperatures, as previously discussed, will in of itself retard decomposition.
Source: LATE POSTMORTEM CHANGES/DECOMPOSITION, WILLIAM A. COX, M.D., FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST/NEUROPATHOLOGIST, November 17, 2009
http://forensicmd.files.wordpress.com/2 ... anges1.doc
Thus, comparing a pig carcass left in the open with buried corpses is like comparing apples to oranges. Not to mention the various mentions of "foul smell," which means the corpses still had to be decomposing, and were not dry. Dryer perhaps, but not dry as in the "dry decay" stage.
Roberto wrote:The bones in the Argentine case were not old.
[T]hey soak the carcass and surrounding immediate area with 5-10 percent formaldehyde to decontaminate the area and discourage scavengers; then they cover the carcass with a heavy-duty tarpauline and securely peg it down. Over 240-260 days the carcass decomposes. They then burn off the tarpauline and the remaining bones and grease using 5 L of diesel.
Emphasis mine. Like I said: "Either a whole carcass or its parts are incinerated, or old bones for whatever reason."
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