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"Never in the space of so few pages have I seen so many breasts bitten, nay even chewed; never did I see such a procession of devils, of foetus, of demons, of cats, and vermin. The book is a hospital full of all the insanities of the human mind, of all the putresence of the human heart; if only this were done to cure them it would be permissible, but they are incurable." --Gustave Bourdin on Les Fleurs du mal in Le Figaro, translation Enid Starkie

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Putrefaction is the fifth stage of death, following pallor mortis, algor mortis, rigor mortis, and livor mortis. This process references the breaking down of a body of an animal such as a human post-mortem (meaning after death). In broad terms, it can be viewed as the decomposition of proteins, and the eventual breakdown of the cohesiveness between tissues, and the liquefaction of most organs. This is caused by the decomposition of organic matter by bacterial or fungal digestion, which causes the release of gases that infiltrate the body's tissues, and leads to the deterioration of the tissues and organs. The approximate time it takes putrefaction to occur is dependent on various factors. Internal factors that affect the rate of putrefaction include the age at which death has occurred, the overall structure and condition of the body, the cause of death, and external injuries arising before or after death. External factors include environmental temperature, moisture and air exposure, clothing, burial factors, and light exposure.

The first signs of putrefaction are signified by a greenish discoloration on the outside of the skin on the abdominal wall corresponding to where the large intestine begins, as well as under the surface of the liver.

Certain substances, such as carbolic acid, arsenic, strychnine, and zinc chloride, can be used to delay the process of putrefaction in various ways based on their chemical make up.

Body farms are facilities which study the process of human decomposition as well as how environmental factors affect the rate of putrefaction.


From Latin putridus (“rotten, decayed”), from pūtreō (“I am rotten or putrid”), from puter (“rotten, decaying, putrid”).


  1. Rotting, rotten, being in a state of putrefaction.
  2. of, relating to, or characteristic of putrefaction, especially having a bad smell, like that of a rotten flesh.
  3. Vile, disgusting.
  4. morally corrupt
  5. totally objectionable

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Putrefaction" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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