Exhuming a Body: Reasons and Methods

With roots in the Latin word exhumare (literally translated to ‘out of the ground’), exhumation is the process of unearthing buried human remains for any number of reasons. While this practice is rather uncommon, it can be a crucial undertaking in cases of criminal investigations, as well as situations where family members wish for an alternate resting place for the deceased.

funeral Understanding the Exhumation Process

During exhumation, officials are typically present to ensure the work is performed according to state and local regulations. A funeral director may be in attendance, as well as members of the local police force. The family of the deceased is discouraged from attending, as the process can be extremely difficult for loved ones to witness.

Excavation often involves both mechanical machinery as well as manpower. Further, most exhumations take place during summer months, as the process can prove difficult in lower temperatures due to hardening or freezing of the soil. Before the casket is unearthed, the site is prepared by removing tombstones or any other structures existing above the burial ground. Great pains are taken to keep coffins intact while they are lifted, which can be difficult when the deceased has been interred for lengthy period of time. Once the casket is removed, the remains are then transferred to a laboratory or alternate vessel.

Common Reasons for Exhumation

There are a number of reasons why one would elect to have a loved one exhumed after burial. Criminal investigations are a common factor, as additional forensic analysis may be necessary if new information comes to light. DNA testing may be another factor; this kind of test may be used to establish or confirm the identity of the deceased or in special cases, determine parental or genealogical relationships.

Other reasons usually involve family members who wish the grave of the deceased to be relocated. War veterans are sometimes exhumed to be interred in an official burial ground, such as cemeteries dedicated to honoring service men and women. One enterprising blogger has created a very reader-friendly walk-through of the process most families go through when relocating the grave a loved one. Cost and transportation are just two of the matters that a family must consider before pursuing this course of action.

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