Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Medical Do bones decay, and if so how

  1. Jul 10, 2008 #1


    User Avatar

    Hi, I am new to this forum, and i was wondering if anyone know the answer to the above question. I am trying to find the answer so I would be able to discuss it at school.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 10, 2008 #2
    Please make it clearer what your asking. Are you questioning bone loss{decay} in living organisms? Or decay rates in decedent organisms?
  4. Jul 13, 2008 #3


    User Avatar

    I wanted to know if bones decay after a person is dead and buried. If so, do you know how long it takes?
  5. Jul 14, 2008 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Yes, bones decay. Otherwise we would be sitting on a huge pile of bones from all the million years of life. Bones are basically a composit of protein and minerals. The time it takes for bones to decay entirely depends on intrinsic and extrinsic factors, I can not give an estimate of that.

    Would you be able to come up with an important intrinsic and an important extrinsic factor?
  6. Jul 14, 2008 #5

    jim mcnamara

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    What Monique is talking about -

    When bodies are buried in boggy soils, the tannins in the soil water tan the skin, and after a while the skin is preserved and the bone gone. This can happen fairly quickly. In this case the acidity of the soil actually dissoves bone mineral.

    When bodies are buried in very dry regions, and exposed to salts like natron, most tissues, including bone, can persist for thousands of years. Egyptian mummies come to mind. There are skeletal remains of early homo sapiens from the Northern Sahara desert region - ~90000 years or more that apparently have not been remineralized (fossilized).

    So. Until you can be more specific, this is about as far as we can go with any details. IF you look up how bone becomes fossil it might help.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook