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#1 a-o-k

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 08:19 PM

My question regards bones after death.

Are bones that turn to ashes in a casket the same (chemically, physically) as bones that turn to ashes when a body is cremated?

I'm asking because, when a body is buried, it is not burned but the bones turn to dust or ashes, and when cremated the body is burned and the bones come out brittle from a cremation chamber and are ground up and called "ashes." I want to know if the remains of the bones in both situations are the same, years later, when they are ashes.

Thanks
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#2 imatfaal

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 08:43 PM

AOK - do you have some reference for the bit about bones buried turning to ashes? Could you post a link to where you read this?

I am not an expert, or an archaeologist but I have seen bones being excavated from graves that are thousands of years old (a few times live and many times on TV). Sometimes the soil is acidic and the bones are degraded or lost - and I am sure there are many other circumstances that will stop bones being preserved - but bone does not automatically turn into dust and ashes when buried.
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#3 a-o-k

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 09:29 PM

AOK - do you have some reference for the bit about bones buried turning to ashes? Could you post a link to where you read this?

I am not an expert, or an archaeologist but I have seen bones being excavated from graves that are thousands of years old (a few times live and many times on TV). Sometimes the soil is acidic and the bones are degraded or lost - and I am sure there are many other circumstances that will stop bones being preserved - but bone does not automatically turn into dust and ashes when buried.



Hi, thanks for responding.

I realize there are situations where bones stay bones for a very long time. My question is more focused. But I'll take your cue to try to get to my point from your perspective...

Using bones that were excavated from graves thousands of years ago, if they were placed in a different area where they did turn to ashes --however long it took to turn to ashes, would THOSE ashes have the same properties as the ashes from those same bones if those people had been cremated?

So I'm basically wondering if cremation changes the properties of the ashes simply because it involves heat/fire as opposed to bones that turned to ashes on their own -through oxygen or otherwise but not by intense heat. I only want to know if the composition of the remains from both bones wind up being the same or different.

Hope that makes more sense. Thanks!
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#4 hypervalent_iodine

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 09:40 PM

I think you need to reference you sources as well. How do you explain the abundance of dinosaur skeletal remains? These are 64 million years old, sometimes more. As with imatfaal, I am not an archaeologist or some sort of decomposition expert.
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#5 a-o-k

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 09:59 PM

I think you need to reference you sources as well. How do you explain the abundance of dinosaur skeletal remains? These are 64 million years old, sometimes more. As with imatfaal, I am not an archaeologist or some sort of decomposition expert.




I'm afraid that my thread is being twisted into something that has nothing to do with my question and I apologize if that was my mistake and I wasn't clear. I am in no way saying that all bones turn to ashes. Of course there are bones that have remained bones.

So I'll try to rephrase:

If I were to die and have my body buried, and in time, if my body turned to ashes on its own, would those ashes be the same as if I had died and had my body cremated and then ground to ashes?

Hopefully that helps. Thanks!
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#6 imatfaal

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 10:01 PM

AOK - still not quite with you - but getting there I hope. Still not sure about the "my body turned to ashes"

I presume by ashes you mean the remains of decomposition - I have never heard these called ashes, but that is neither here nor there. Bacteria and micro-organisms are incredibly good at breaking down dead animals - without that we would be waste deep in bodies. It might strike some as a horrible thought but our bodies are eaten by small animals and micro-organisms.

I would suggest that the best one could say is that with cremation the remains are fairly uniform ie ashes, bone chips, and minerals - whereas the biodecomposed remains could vary from complete natural mummification (ie some of the bodies discovered in anaerobic peat bogs) to complete recycling where the only clue is discoloured ground. The minerals of bones (calcium compounds) would, as a guess, be the last to go and would remain in the cremation ashes; but everything else that remained would depend on the local flora and fauna.

Edited by imatfaal, 14 January 2011 - 10:04 PM.

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#7 a-o-k

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Posted 15 January 2011 - 12:28 AM

AOK - still not quite with you - but getting there I hope. Still not sure about the "my body turned to ashes"

I presume by ashes you mean the remains of decomposition - I have never heard these called ashes, but that is neither here nor there. Bacteria and micro-organisms are incredibly good at breaking down dead animals - without that we would be waste deep in bodies. It might strike some as a horrible thought but our bodies are eaten by small animals and micro-organisms.

I would suggest that the best one could say is that with cremation the remains are fairly uniform ie ashes, bone chips, and minerals - whereas the biodecomposed remains could vary from complete natural mummification (ie some of the bodies discovered in anaerobic peat bogs) to complete recycling where the only clue is discoloured ground. The minerals of bones (calcium compounds) would, as a guess, be the last to go and would remain in the cremation ashes; but everything else that remained would depend on the local flora and fauna.



I'm new to this site and I'm not a scientist (or student). I'm just a regular layperson. So when I say "ashes," I'm referring to what people that work in crematoriums or funeral homes refer to --bones that decompose. They're not really ashes at all but that's what they're referred to as. In any case, when cremated, those "ashes" are finely ground. When buried, they are not burned and they are not ground by a machine, so you are are right when you say that, with cremation, the remains are fairly uniform and that biodecomposed remains could vary. I'm with you here, 100%.

Your last sentence confuses me; everything else makes sense.

Other than being fairly uniform, is the actual chemical composition of the decomposed bones through cremation the same as those that are buried? (Is that a fair question? Sorry if it's not. I'm trying.)
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#8 hypervalent_iodine

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Posted 15 January 2011 - 12:39 AM

I just did a little bit of research on the topic and from what I gather, they will not have the same composition as they are broken down via two very different mechanisms. When you bury a body, the bones may chemically decompose as a result of soil acidity (as mentioned) or biologically decompose via bacteria, which effectively consume the calcium stores. Burning a body is very different and doesn't actually produce ash, rather dry bone fragments, which are then pulverised to ash. The ash tends to contain, "dry calcium phosphates with some minor minerals, such as salts of sodium and potassium. Sulfur and most carbon is driven off as oxidized gases during the process, although a relatively small amount of carbon as carbonate may remain." (that was from wiki). I think that's correct.
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#9 Mr Skeptic

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Posted 15 January 2011 - 05:31 AM

I don't think that decomposition would yield the same results as burning. Especially considering all the ways the body might not completely decompose. Also, cremation would produce dehydrated chemicals but decomposition would probably result in hydrated chemicals.
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#10 a-o-k

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Posted 15 January 2011 - 07:26 PM

Thank you hypervalent_iodine and Mr. Skeptic. That's exactly what I'm looking for.

Can you further this just a little bit...

1. Is human DNA found in the remains of a person that is buried (not enbaumed, just placed in a wooden casket) after their body has decomposed to where it is only bones or ashes (not sure if DNA is in our teeth)?

2. Is human DNA destroyed in the cremation process, right?


Thanks
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#11 hypervalent_iodine

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Posted 15 January 2011 - 10:29 PM

By that stage, the DNA would be well decomposed. And I would think that DNA subjected to that sort of temperature and physical stress would be in the same basket.

Edited by hypervalent_iodine, 15 January 2011 - 10:29 PM.

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#12 a-o-k

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 01:13 AM

By that stage, the DNA would be well decomposed. And I would think that DNA subjected to that sort of temperature and physical stress would be in the same basket.



Please ignore this if it is in any way offensive. I don't mean to be. I'm curious what your thoughts are regarding some of the following quotes and I put my questions below. (I'm not Jewish.) Found this online and it spurred some questions...


“Jewish tradition records that with burial, a single bone in the back of the neck never decays. It is from this bone—called the luz(luzz) bone..."

QUESTION: Is it true this bone never decays?

"...But now let’s look at cremation through the lens of a modern geneticist. DNA—the Blueprint of Your Existence. Consider that all living things have its own set of unique blueprints —its genetic DNA, and human beings are no different. Once a living thing is cremated, the DNA ceases to exist. Not only does the high heat of burning destroy the genetic compound, but also the pulverization of bone fragments, which occurs after the cremation process (the ashes), completely destroys any traces of DNA. So in the physical sense, after cremation the living thing is as if it never existed. There is no trace left of its DNA..

QUESTION: When you say "well decomposed," is the DNA --as-- decomposed if the body were buried?

Thanks again.


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#13 hypervalent_iodine

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 01:59 AM

In reference to your first question, no. It is not true that bone does not decay. I myself and Mr. Skeptic mentioned, when buried bones may be decayed via soil acidity or my calcium sequestering microbes. "Decay" is simply another term for decompose.

As for your second question. I suppose given enough time and the right conditions, both would reach a point where they had decayed to a similar level. My understanding is that cremation merely fast tracks the process.
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#14 a-o-k

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 03:16 AM

In reference to your first question, no. It is not true that bone does not decay. I myself and Mr. Skeptic mentioned, when buried bones may be decayed via soil acidity or my calcium sequestering microbes. "Decay" is simply another term for decompose.

As for your second question. I suppose given enough time and the right conditions, both would reach a point where they had decayed to a similar level. My understanding is that cremation merely fast tracks the process.



Hypervalent-iodine --thank you, I appreciate your input very much.


You're at the very crux of what it is I'm looking for. Pardon my question but I want to be absolutely clear:

1. Are you SURE that even this one bone does decay -the luz bone at the neck? There is a lot of talk that all bones decay except for the luz bone, though I'm not sure if the talk has any scientific backing.

2. When you say, "I suppose given enough time and the right conditions, both would reach a point where they had decayed to a similar level. My understanding is that cremation merely fast tracks the process."

--Is this true even though you said that burning a body doesn't produce ash; only dry bone fragments pulverised to ash? --even though this is true, you still think that, given time, the naturally-decaying body will have the same composition as pulverised ash?

That's what the funeral director told me but I had a hard time believing it and when you originally wrote back, that's what I was thinking but in a very vague way and without any form whatsoever. Now I'm hearing you say that they end up essentially the same and I'm guessing you mean that basically the very foundational elements of bone are the same regardless of what they go through, that bone is bone is bone.

THANK YOU. This is very helpful.

In reference to your first question, no. It is not true that bone does not decay. I myself and Mr. Skeptic mentioned, when buried bones may be decayed via soil acidity or my calcium sequestering microbes. "Decay" is simply another term for decompose.

As for your second question. I suppose given enough time and the right conditions, both would reach a point where they had decayed to a similar level. My understanding is that cremation merely fast tracks the process.



Hypervalent-iodine --thank you, I appreciate your input very, very much.


You're at the crux of what I'm looking for. Pardon my question but I want to be absolutely clear:

1. Are you SURE that even this one bone does decay -the luz bone at the neck? There is a lot of talk that all bones decay except for the luz bone, though I'm not sure if the talk has any scientific backing.

2. When you say, "I suppose given enough time and the right conditions, both would reach a point where they had decayed to a similar level. My understanding is that cremation merely fast tracks the process."

--Is this true even though you said that burning a body doesn't produce ash; only dry bone fragments pulverised to ash? --you still think that, given time, under certain conditions, that the naturally-decaying body will have the same composition as pulverised ash? (I don't want to put words in your mouth while I rewrite this so excuse me if I translated incorrectly)

That's what the funeral director told me but I had a hard time believing it and when you originally wrote back, that's what I was thinking but in a very vague way and without any form whatsoever. Now I'm hearing you say that they end up essentially the same and I'm guessing you mean that basically the very foundational elements of bone are the same regardless of what they go through, that bone is bone is bone.

THANK YOU. This is very helpful.
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#15 hypervalent_iodine

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 03:38 AM

Hypervalent-iodine --thank you, I appreciate your input very much.


You're at the very crux of what it is I'm looking for. Pardon my question but I want to be absolutely clear:

1. Are you SURE that even this one bone does decay -the luz bone at the neck? There is a lot of talk that all bones decay except for the luz bone, though I'm not sure if the talk has any scientific backing.

2. When you say, "I suppose given enough time and the right conditions, both would reach a point where they had decayed to a similar level. My understanding is that cremation merely fast tracks the process."

--Is this true even though you said that burning a body doesn't produce ash; only dry bone fragments pulverised to ash? --even though this is true, you still think that, given time, the naturally-decaying body will have the same composition as pulverised ash?

That's what the funeral director told me but I had a hard time believing it and when you originally wrote back, that's what I was thinking but in a very vague way and without any form whatsoever. Now I'm hearing you say that they end up essentially the same and I'm guessing you mean that basically the very foundational elements of bone are the same regardless of what they go through, that bone is bone is bone.

THANK YOU. This is very helpful.


1. Yes, I am sure. It is a bone like any other (so far as I can tell). As far as I could tell in my research, all the talks of the luz bone not decaying are part of Jewish myth and do not represent scientific fact. I do not do anatomy though, so perhaps I am mistaken.

2. Unless I am mistaken, you were asking about the decomposition of DNA in each instance, not any other part of the chemical make up. I said originally that the whole chemical composition of each would be different, which I still say is true.


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#16 Mr Skeptic

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 04:05 AM

Well if you want something to not decay, the best way is to keep it cold and dry. Dry means no life to decompose the body, no water to leach minerals from the bones, no water for hydrolysis reactions (well it would have to be absurdly dry for that last one). The cold slows down almost every chemical reaction. Now I think in Israel they have a tradition of burying people in caves. Even though caves are humid, to properly get rid of bones requires that the calcium be leached away, unlike most parts of the body that are just oxidized into gases calcium will not. But unless it was also dry I wouldn't expect any DNA.
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#17 a-o-k

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 04:29 AM

Thanks for the info. I'm getting this slowly but surely.

Here's the quote:

""...Once a living thing is cremated, the DNA ceases to exist. Not only does the high heat of burning destroy the genetic compound, but also the pulverization of bone fragments, which occurs after the cremation process (the ashes), completely destroys any traces of DNA. So in the physical sense, after cremation the living thing is as if it never existed. There is no trace left of its DNA..."

This is a Judaic argument against cremation, as if to say that there is no trace left of DNA after cremation, as if there IS trace of DNA in the bones or ashes of a buried individual.

Is that true?




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#18 hypervalent_iodine

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 05:12 AM

Thanks for the info. I'm getting this slowly but surely.

Here's the quote:

""...Once a living thing is cremated, the DNA ceases to exist. Not only does the high heat of burning destroy the genetic compound, but also the pulverization of bone fragments, which occurs after the cremation process (the ashes), completely destroys any traces of DNA. So in the physical sense, after cremation the living thing is as if it never existed. There is no trace left of its DNA..."

This is a Judaic argument against cremation, as if to say that there is no trace left of DNA after cremation, as if there IS trace of DNA in the bones or ashes of a buried individual.

Is that true?






As I have said and as Mr. Skeptic has said already, no. Unless the body was preserved, there will be no DNA in the remains of a buried body.


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#19 a-o-k

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 09:02 PM

As I have said and as Mr. Skeptic has said already, no. Unless the body was preserved, there will be no DNA in the remains of a buried body.




Makes sense now. Sort of. I asked again because I don't see any response here regarding my question in regards to DNA:

" Unless I am mistaken, you were asking about the decomposition of DNA in each instance, not any other part of the chemical make up. I said originally that the whole chemical composition of each would be different, which I still say is true."


DNA is in bone marrow so I'm not clear why it doesn't exist in bones that are buried.
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#20 hypervalent_iodine

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 10:00 PM

Makes sense now. Sort of. I asked again because I don't see any response here regarding my question in regards to DNA:

" Unless I am mistaken, you were asking about the decomposition of DNA in each instance, not any other part of the chemical make up. I said originally that the whole chemical composition of each would be different, which I still say is true."


DNA is in bone marrow so I'm not clear why it doesn't exist in bones that are buried.



DNA is found in every cell of your body. Even while you are alive, your DNA is constantly decaying. When you get buried, it keeps decaying until there's none left.

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