In questions regarding burial space, a key question is how many bodies correspond to a given size of grave. Sometimes this question is addressed in terms of the mass of carcasses corresponding to a given size of grave, on the basis of the assumption that burial space required scales directly with mass. While this approach is not perfect, it does have definite advantages, and offers a reasonable starting point.
Roberto Muehlankamp has supposed (on the basis of his speculations, without citing any information on real-life mass burials) that 663.40 kg of carcasses correspond to one cubic meter of burial space. (Muehlenkamp likes to assume that excavated volume – as measured after multiple disturbances that took place after the initial excavation – corresponds to the volume of the carcass mass, i.e. the region of the mass grave occupied by the bodies more or less in contact with one another. In all mass burials that have been studied, the volume of the carcass mass is considerably less than the total excavated volume, but this is besides the point for the purpose of the present post.)
Carlo Mattogno has suggested that 420 kg per cubic meter is a realistic limit for burial density.
Fortunately for us, this very question was studied during the 2001 UK FMD epidemic (Young, Marsland, & Smith, Foot & Mouth Disease Epidemic. Disposal of culled stock by burial: Guidance and Reference Data for the protection of controlled waters. Draft R&D Technical Report: Version 7: 20 June 2001, p. 16):
(Note that the average mass of the animals is lower than the figures sometimes given. This is because these figures are inclusive of the juveniles.)
Dividing, we get the following densities for weight of carcass per cubic meter of carcass mass:
Cattle: 355.2 kg / m^3
Sheep: 424 kg / m^3
Pigs: 424.6 kg / m^3
It’s interesting that the figure for cattle is so much lower than those for pigs and sheep. Two possible explanations: (1) cattle carcasses swell during the early stages of decomposition by a larger factor than do smaller carcasses, and/or (2) there were comparatively few juvenile cattle included (34%, versus 67% and 85% for sheep and pigs) and even juvenile cattle are rather large; the smaller carcasses play an important role in filling in the gaps left between the larger animals, and were less able to do this in the cattle burials than in the burials of pigs and sheep.
In any event, it’s fair to assume that the figures for pigs and sheep are the ones most comparable to human burials. The figures of 424 and 424.6 kg/m^3 are very close to Carlo Mattogno’s estimate of 420 kg/m^3, so the general reliability of revisionist reasoning on this subject is again confirmed, while Muehlenkamp’s figures are refuted on the basis of the best data we have.
(Interestingly enough, the authors of this study had also supposed – without specific data – that higher densities of burial were possible, but found that supposition refuted by real-life experience.)
There are other factors to consider, of course. For instance, humans’ long limbs and large heads are likely to decrease burial density. Humans are – how to put it – more concave than livestock, if you will. This is all the more so for the emaciated. Of course, there are also differences in body density, which could run in the other direction. We don’t have enough data to give exact figures on what impact these factors will have. The key point is that the best available source on the density of the carcass mass in mass graves shows that Muehlenkamp overestimates the practically achievable value by over 50% – a truly enormous error.