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What is the main purpose of placing human limbs under running water for several days/weeks/months?
Are you talking about the cadaver limbs that were left in running water? Those were placed there because at the time, there wasn’t much reliable information as to the progression of decomposition over time when it came to bodies found in, say, a creek bed, or caught in rocks in a river.
With sample limbs continually monitored and measured, the approximate length of time that passed since the decedent became submerged in running water could be much more easily approximated. The decomposition of the body in a river is surprisingly distinct from the decomposition in a still body of water like a lake or pond.
…if you’re talking about live people, I have no idea. Torture? To destroy their skin? Probably torture. Yeah, we’ll go with that.