How Long an Embalmed Body Lasts in a Coffin - Wilsons Funeral Advice (2024)

There are far too many variables to make an accurateassumption of the time factor it takes for an embalmed body to last within acoffin.

An embalmed body usually lasts in a coffin for up to 10years, but can last from 3 to 100 years, depending on the:

  1. Skill of the embalmer
  2. Length of time from death before embalming
  3. Size and weight of the body
  4. Composition of the fluid
  5. Acidity and moisture of burial ground
  6. Coffin type

All these factors play a part in the decomposition of anembalmed body.

You may have the misconception that an embalmed body within acoffin will take hundreds of years to break down and return to the earth, butthis is not always so.

There are other factors involved that affect the longevity,and some of these include humidity, heat, cold, soil type, availability ofoxygen, body weight and size, clothing, and the surface on which the bodyrests.

Even the type of coffin the deceased is buried in plays a part.Soft timbers such as pine break down more than the hardwood variety.

As a result of these variables, it is almost impossible togive an exact estimate of the time an embalmed corpse will last when buried ina coffin. You could say that it could be from as little as a few years to asmuch as 100 years or even more.

The LastingQuality of Embalming

If the deceased is buried six feet down without a coffin inordinary soil, an un-embalmed adult normally takes 8-12 weeks to decompose to askeleton.

However, an embalmed body placed in a coffin enables the bodyto last for many years depending on the type of wood used. An embalmed body canlast up to ten years or longer under normal burial circ*mstances.

But what are normal burial circ*mstances?

  • These includethe time between death and the embalming process. The shorter the time, thelonger the embalming will last as it seals the body from air, temperature, andmoisture.
  • The conditionof the body also plays a role in the final effect achieved by embalming. Thosethat have died due to a crash or suffered disease may need more carefulembalming especially if the family wants a viewing before the burial.
  • The quality ofthe material of the casket and the lining help to prevent the decay of thebody. The harder the material such as metal or hardwood, with thick paddedlining within the casket can prevent moisture from seeping into the casket.
  • There areseveral types of chemicals used and they can be used at different strengthswhich can make a difference to the longevity of the body.
  • The skill and care of theembalmer can be the difference from lasting from a few years tolasting for several hundred years.

Famous Examples ofLong Lasting Embalmed Bodies

How Long an Embalmed Body Lasts in a Coffin - Wilsons Funeral Advice (1)
  • As mentioned earlier, the most famous of Egypt’s pharaohs, Tutankhamun was embalmed and laid to rest around 1323 BC. His famous sarcophagus are legendary even today.
  • The remains of Saint Bernadette were uncovered 30 years after her death in the year 1879. She was found to be incredibly well preserved with little decay or damage.

Thereason for embalming is to preserve the body for a certain amount of time, totry to stave off the deterioration of the body.

Forthe celebrity or great leader, it is a way to remain immortal, to defy deathand have their image live on forever.

The Way a Bodyis Embalmed

Without going into too much detail, the way the body is embalmed is the secretto the longevity of the deceased.

Understanding this process will enable you to understand whythe time spent preparing the body is necessary.

  • First on thelist requires the body to be washed with a disinfectant solution.
  • The limbs aremassaged to relieve the stiffening of the joints and the muscles so that thebody looks relaxed and can be naturally posed.
  • With surgicalprecision, the blood is removed from the body via the veins, and it is replacedwith a formaldehyde-based chemical solution which prevents deterioration of thebody. The embalming solution may also contain other chemicals such as methanol,ethanol, phenol, glutaraldehyde, and even some dyes to overcome the palenessonce the blood has been removed.
  • The eyes aresecured in a closed position with a special glue, and the lower jaw is securedby wires or sewing. In this way, the face can be manipulated into the desiredposition.
  • Body cavitiesare filled, and internal organs are drained of gas and fluid contents.
  • Once all thisis completed, the body can be dressed in the clothes of the family’s choice,their hair is washed and styled, and cosmetics are applied to achieve a near aspossible natural appearance.
  • At this stage,the body is placed into a casket and prepared for visitation or service.

Visting to view the body can be very helpful to the mourningprocess. To see the deceased in a calm, almost serene pose can help the familyand friends to say goodbye.

The Reasons forEmbalming

Preservation is the main reason for embalming, but it can befor an emotional need as well.

  • To see the deceasedpreserved, dressed, and made to look ‘normal’ can ease the grief of losingsomeone who was a vital part of their life.
  • The need tohave them looking their best makes themourner feel better. They feel they have ‘taken care’ of that person’s lastrites of passage.
  • Many believethat embalming and dressing the body will also protect it from the grave, whichsounds morbid but is a natural reaction to loss.
  • It is a veryemotional time for close family; it can be hard to justify letting them go intothe ground. Comfort can be had when they are given every care before theburial.
  • It can be for areligious belief that the family wishes to fulfill.
  • Or it can be toprotect the deceased if they are crossing the border into another state. Somestates have laws about bodies in transit. Many insist that the body must beembalmed before the long journey.

Grief is something we all must go through, and having aprocess of preparation for the deceased allows us all to process the fact thatthey have passed on.

Embalming buys us time to care for the dead before they areput into the ground. Whatever helps with the grieving process is good for theliving.

The History of Embalming.

We can trace the art of embalming back as far as AncientEgypt to approximately as early as 6000 BC. Their skills were extraordinary.

  • As an example, Tutankhamun’s sarcophagus (a stonecontainer) had not one, but three coffins in which the body of the king waslaid to rest. The outer coffins were crafted in wood and covered with gold andinlaid with many semiprecious stones.
  • The innercoffin was made of solid gold. And look how long King Tutankhamun has lasted.It is a masterpiece and still draws a crowd to view it.
  • His beautifullycrafted death mask is a world treasure, a wonderful creation designed toprotect the king and send him in style into the afterlife.

Of course, few of us can afford such grandeur, but we havemany skilled embalmers that we rely on to prepare the body of our loved one forburial when the time has come.

The Final Goodbye.

The reasonfor embalming is to preserve the body for a certain amount of time, to tryto stave off the deterioration of the body.

Oftenthis is done if the family of the deceased want to have an open casket forvisiting loved ones before the funeral service.

How long they last within the ground though, is up to God and nature.

Writer: Jean Brewer

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