Alex Mar tours the Forensic Anthropology Research Facility (FARF) in San Marcos, Texas, America’s largest “body farm” for studying human remains:
The odor is strong as I walk among the cages, the air redolent with the heavy, sour-wet scent of these bodies letting go of their bile, staining the grasses all around them. I look at the sprawl, each individual in its strange shelter, shriveled and shocked-looking; each with more or less of its flesh and insides; each, in its post-person state, given a new name: a number. They died quietly, in an old-age home; they died painfully, of cancer; they died suddenly, in some violent accident; they died deliberately, a suicide. In spite of how little they had in common in life, they now lie exposed alongside one another, their very own enzymes propelling them toward the same final state. Here, in death, unintentionally, they have formed a community of equals.