Natural mummification 'causes constraints' in Portuguese graveyards

Natural mummification ’causes constraints’ in Portuguese graveyards

Dead bodies are not decomposing like they used to

Portuguese cemeteries are “registering more and more causes of natural mummification”.

“This is causing “constraints in terms of space”, forensic anthropological investigator Ângela Silva Bessa explains.

If bodies do not decompose naturally, it is difficult to dig them up (a common practice in Portugal, in order to free plots for other dead bodies). 

Ms Silva Bessa tells Lusa of incidents in which bodies in Porto, Braga, Figueira da Foz, Mértola and Faro have thwarted exhumators up to four times – simply by still ‘existing’. 

It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with soil type, which changes throughout the country.

She adds: “The law says that after three years the corpse will be ready to be exhumed and, in the case of temporary graves, these can be reused. However, when cadaveric decomposition does not occur, inhumation (meaning, remaining in the ground) will have to continue, for successive periods of two years, in which every two years the body is dug up and the relatives are called to verify its state”. 

This practice clearly must upset relatives, but Lusa has not gone into this. 

Ms Silva Bessa’s solution?

“We have to figure out how we can help in accelerating cadaveric decomposition so that after three or four years we have the body for exhumation,” she told the State news agency.

This has been a slow news day.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com