Graveyard Shift What Actually Happens To A Body In A Crematorium  

Christopher Myers
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Have you ever wondered what really happens during a cremation? How does a crematorium even work? Well, wonder no more! Here is a step-by-step explanation of the cremation process, where you can indulge in your morbid and practical curiosity about everything that goes on inside the walls of a crematorium.

Perhaps this will even help you decide what you would prefer to do with your own mortal vessel. Cremation takes up far less land than traditional burials do, and human taxidermy is still frowned upon, making cremation an ever popular option. In the end, dead bodies all have to go somewhere.

If nothing else, cremation is a really interesting process, though not quite as interesting as a Viking funeral.

The Body Is Prepared

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Certain therapeutic devices, such as pacemakers, will explode when put into a cremator. Therefore, it is important to remove them from the body - in addition to any implants that might create hazardous gasses when burned - before carrying out the cremation.

All jewelry of any value should also be removed because it is likely going to be completely destroyed during the cremation anyway.

The Body Enters The Inferno: How The Cremation Chamber Works

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Also known as a retort, the cremation chamber maintains a temperature between 1,400 and 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, and is lined with industrial brick designed to hold the high temperatures. The chamber is designed to only hold one body at a time, with only very specific exceptions made - such as a stillborn child and mother who died during birth. In most cases, it is actually illegal to burn multiple bodies at once in the same cremator.

The body remains inside the combustible coffin as it is placed into the cremation chamber. The door to the chamber only opens briefly to intern the body, in order to maintain the high temperatures required for the process. Once fueled by coal and coke, modern cremation chambers are now usually fueled by natural gas, propane, or diesel.

The Corpse Is Overcome By Extreme Heat And Flames

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After being placed inside the cremation chamber, the coffin and body are exposed to a massive column of flames. The coffin ignites first, and then the body itself. Water from the body quickly leaves in the form of steam, and then it begins to combust. The hair and skin are burned off first, followed by the muscles, which contract and are then charred. The soft tissues are vaporized, and then the bones begin to calcify.

At this point, the body has been reduced to skeletal remains. Some crematoriums also have secondary afterburners that can reduce emissions, odors, and smoke. Otherwise, the now brittle bones are crushed manually by someone using a long rod tool resembling a hoe.

The whole process takes around two to three hours, depending on factors such as the weight of the body, the type of casket used, and the average temperature maintained by the retort.

The Cremains Are Allowed To Cool

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At this point, the body is reduced to skeletal remains and dust. Once adequately cooled, they are swept onto a tray and a magnet is used to sift out any metal particles that may remain, such as surgical screws, fillings, or metal plates. These are then disposed of or recycled.