Mummification

Mummification occurs in hot, dry environments. The body dehydrates and bacterial proliferation is minimal.

The skin becomes dark, dried, and leathery. The process occurs readily in the fingers and toes in dry environments regardless of the temperature. Most mummified bodies are found in the summer months. It is also common for this process to occur in winter months if the environment is warm. It is possible for an entire body to mummify in a only a few days to weeks. Once a body is in this state, it may remain preserved for many years.

Post Mortem Rigor Mortis

FIGURE 1.1 This man was found in this position the day after he died. His body was completely stiff. This stiffness (rigor mortis) begins in all muscles 1-2 hours after death when the environmental temperature is approximately 75°F. The body will be in complete rigor in 10-12 hours and remain stiff for another 24-36 hours at the same environmental temperature. Heat speeds up the process and cold retards it. See next photo.

FIGURE 1.1 This man was found in this position the day after he died. His body was completely stiff. This stiffness (rigor mortis) begins in all muscles 1-2 hours after death when the environmental temperature is approximately 75°F. The body will be in complete rigor in 10-12 hours and remain stiff for another 24-36 hours at the same environmental temperature. Heat speeds up the process and cold retards it. See next photo.

Livor Mortis

FIGURE 1.3 Livor mortis. Blood settles with gravity after a person dies. The blood becomes fixed in the dependent position in approximately 8-10 hours. Prior to fixation, the blood will redistribute to the new dependent location if the body is moved. The normal color of livor mortis (lividity) is purple. Red lividity can be caused by the cold, cyanide, and carbon monoxide. The lividity in this photo is purple with outlines in red due to refrigeration.

FIGURE 1.3 Livor mortis. Blood settles with gravity after a person dies. The blood becomes fixed in the dependent position in approximately 8-10 hours. Prior to fixation, the blood will redistribute to the new dependent location if the body is moved. The normal color of livor mortis (lividity) is purple. Red lividity can be caused by the cold, cyanide, and carbon monoxide. The lividity in this photo is purple with outlines in red due to refrigeration.

Cyanide Lividity
FIGURE 1.2 The man's knee remains bent after he is moved because the rigor mortis is still in a fixed position. If discovered in this position, the examiner would know the body had been moved.
Rigor Mortis Drown
FIGURE 1.4 This man's arm was in complete rigor against his body. See next photo.
Dead Body Rigor Mortis
FIGURE 1.6 This man was discovered dead in bed. The pattern of livor mortis suggests the man has been moved after the livor mortis had fixed. See next photo.
Livor Mortis

FIGURE 1.5 When the arm is moved, the absence of lividity is apparent where the arm was in contact with the skin.

Dependent Lividity
FIGURE 1.7 The lividity pattern is consistent with the man being on his face in the bed. The fluid in the nose matches up with the stained area in the bed.
Gun Shot Wounds Face
FIGURE 1.8 The pattern of the bedding on the leg suggests the decedent was lying on the bed after death.
Patterns Wounds
FIGURE 1.9 The pale mark on this man's forehead indicates he was resting on his head after death.
Gunshot Wound Hand
FIGURE 1.10 The livor mortis outlines the decedent's hand. This pattern will not go away since the lividity is fixed.
Livor Mortis

FIGURE 1.11 Lividity and congestion (buildup of blood) in the head, neck, and upper chest can give this splotchy pattern.

Blotchy Skin Upper Chest And Neck

FIGURE 1.11 Lividity and congestion (buildup of blood) in the head, neck, and upper chest can give this splotchy pattern.

FIGURE 1.12 Both the anterior lividity and the arms fixed up and bent prove this man was rolled over after his body was discovered.

FIGURE 1.12 Both the anterior lividity and the arms fixed up and bent prove this man was rolled over after his body was discovered.

Gunshot Wounds The Chest
FIGURE 1.13 The arrows point to a shoe pattern on the decedent's arm. There were pale impressions and not bruises or scrapes. This indicates the person was lying against the shoes after death and not before.
Decompositional Changes After Death
FIGURE 1.14 Occasionally, livor mortis may appear as an unusual pattern or look like an injury. This man was discovered at the bottom of some stairs. The pathologist can cut into the area to differentiate between livor mortis and injury. See next photo.
Livor Mortis
FIGURE 1.15 An incision into the area reveals only the yellow fat and no blood. This indicates the area is lividity and not an injury.
Wound Discoloration
FIGURE 1.16 One of the first signs of decomposition is green discoloration of the skin, especially in the abdomen. Decompositional changes may appear within a few hours if the environmental temperature is high.
Discoloration Human Decompose
FIGURE 1.17 Most bodies turn green during the progression of decomposition. This one did not. The body is swollen (bloated) from bacterial gas formation and there is skin slippage and subcutaneous marbling (the outlines of the blood vessels under the skin).
Blood Vessels Under Tongue
FIGURE 1.18 Internal pressure occurs on the internal organs when gas develops. Pressure pushes bloody fluid out the nose and mouth (purging). This should not be confused with trauma to the nose and mouth.
Skin Slippage Decomposition
FIGURE 1.19 Bodies may not swell much when they are in hot and dry climates. The skin slippage may also be dry. See next photo.
Skin Slippage Decomposition
FIGURE 1.20 The skin slippage on the man's hip is dry, not wet and slippery as is usually seen.
Skin Slippage
FIGURE 1.22 The facial features begin to change as swelling occurs during decomposition.
Skin Slippage Decomposition

FIGURE 1.21 Skin slippage may cause fluid-filled blisters to occur. These areas should not be confused with thermal injury.

FIGURE 1.21 Skin slippage may cause fluid-filled blisters to occur. These areas should not be confused with thermal injury.

Liquid Filled Junction Box
FIGURE 1.23 This man was 21, thin, and white. He was discovered in a river 4-5 days after he was killed in the summertime. Decomposition can cause the facial features to change and the hair to slip off. Visual identification may be difficult when such changes occur.
Skin Slippage Decomposition
FIGURE 1.24 The skin and toenails have slipped off the feet. If this occurs on the hands, identification could be made with only the slipped-off skin because the fingerprints are on the skin.
Skin Slippage Decomposition
FIGURE 1.25 Notice the difference between the skin of the hand and the rest of the body. This man drowned, leaving the skin of the hands (and feet) wrinkled, in contrast to the skin on the remainder of the body. See next photo.
Skin Slippage From Decomposition
FIGURE 1.26 A close-up view of the hand shows the dramatic wrinkling of the skin. Had the person been in the water longer, the skin might have easily slipped off like a glove.
Body Decomposition Days
FIGURE 1.27 This 22-year-old white man was found in the woods on a hot summer day five days after he died. The body is markedly swollen and discolored. Initially, he could be mistaken for an African-American man.
Body Decomposition Days

FIGURE 1.28 As decomposition continues, the tissues and organs on the inside of the body begin to look the same in color. See next photo.

Human Decomposition

FIGURE 1.29 The internal organs begin to look the same in color as decomposition progresses.

FIGURE 1.28 As decomposition continues, the tissues and organs on the inside of the body begin to look the same in color. See next photo.

FIGURE 1.29 The internal organs begin to look the same in color as decomposition progresses.

Human Decomposition
FIGURE 1.31 Except for a few injuries, this man's body is in relatively good shape. He was identified visually. He had been in the water for at least three weeks during February.
1889 Gas Water Heater

FIGURE 1.33 His body was much more decomposed in the head region where he was injured and less where he was clothed and covered with the blanket. This asymmetrical decomposition is commonly seen when insects and flies are attracted to the blood in the injured areas. Estimating time of death must be done with the least decomposed areas. The arrow points to postmortem insect activity (anthropophagia).

FIGURE 1.33 His body was much more decomposed in the head region where he was injured and less where he was clothed and covered with the blanket. This asymmetrical decomposition is commonly seen when insects and flies are attracted to the blood in the injured areas. Estimating time of death must be done with the least decomposed areas. The arrow points to postmortem insect activity (anthropophagia).

Postmortem Insect Activity
FIGURE 1.34 This is another example of asymmetrical decomposition. The exposed head is much more decomposed than the rest of the body, which is in the sleeping bag.
Postmortem Insect Activity
FIGURE 1.36 Much of the surrounding dirt accompanied the body. The blanket wrapping the body was carefully removed. The remains and the dirt had already been X-rayed. No bullets were discovered.
Gunshot Wounds
FIGURE 1.37 There was no soft tissue remaining. A dentist was asked to look through all of the bone fragments of the face and head in order to find some teeth for identification. He was unsuccessful. See next photo.
Gunshot Wounds
FIGURE 1.38 The skeleton was complete except for the head. Many of the facial fragments were lost at the time of the shooting. The man was wearing red shoes, shorts, and a shirt which were used in the identification. See next photo.
Gunshot Wounds
FIGURE 1.39 This is the trunk area. The T-shirt he was wearing helped to identify him.
Gunshot Wound
FIGURE 1.40 The bones of the feet were still in the red sport shoes.
Facial Gunshot
FIGURE 1.41 Mummification. The skin dries out and turns leathery. This man's head mummified within two days because his head was next to a heater. His head will not decompose further due to the mummification. See next photo.
Mummification Forensic
FIGURE 1.42 His hands had also mummified.
Blanket MummificationAdipocere Formation And Mummification
FIGURE 1.43 These remains were completely mummified in approximately six weeks during the summer months.

FIGURE 1.44 Adipocere. A clothed body wrapped in a U-Haul blanket was discovered at the edge of a lake. See next photo.

Gunshot Wond
FIGURE 1.45 The body was still white and originally thought by law enforcement to not be very decomposed. They thought the body had been in the water about a week. See next photo.
Adipocere Bodies
FIGURE 1.47 Even though she had been in the cold water for over ten months, she was visually identified by the sheriff. See next photo.
How Does Gun Shot Wound Miss Organs
FIGURE 1.49 The internal organs were in remarkably good condition given the time in the water. This photograph of the brain shows that it was still in good enough condition to be examined for evidence of trauma.

FIGURE 1.46 Upon closer examination the skin appeared to be thickened with the superficial layers of the skin missing. This change is called adipocere. The soft tissue turns into a soap-like substance (saponification). This occurs in cold wet conditions. Once the change occurs it will remain for years. See next photo.

Gunshot Wounds
FIGURE 1.48 She was also identified by numerous tattoos. See next photo.
How Does Gun Shot Wound Miss Organs
FIGURE 1.50 This case is another example of adipocere. The body was buried for more than two years in a casket which filled with water. See next photo.
Adipocere Formation And Mummification
FIGURE 1.51 The remains are much less preserved than in the previous case. An examination could be made; however, the results were not as good as hoped.
Embalmed Woman Casket
FIGURE 1.52 This woman was in cold water for approximately three months. Adipocere was only beginning. Adipocere change usually takes months before it is well-developed. The mark on the neck is from a cable (tied to a concrete block) which aided in sinking the body.

FIGURE 1.53 The black discoloration on the skin is mold. This man had been embalmed and buried for over three years. See next photo.

FIGURE 1.53 The black discoloration on the skin is mold. This man had been embalmed and buried for over three years. See next photo.

Gravity Embalming
FIGURE 1.54 The man in the casket. Aside from the mold, the body was well-preserved. See next photo.
Bodys Casket
FIGURE 1.55 The internal organs were in very good condition and could be easily evaluated.
Disinterred Casket
FIGURE 1.56 This man's body was disinterred because a faulty heart valve was thought to be the cause of his death. See next photo.
Disinterred Caskets
FIGURE 1.58 The heart valve could easily be located and evaluated. In this case, the valve did not malfunction; however, it was damaged from the trocarring performed during the embalming process.
Embalming Decomposed Body
FIGURE 1.59 This woman's body was placed in a steel box, filled with concrete, and buried under the house. The concrete did not totally encase the body because her back was lying on the bottom of the box. She was found approximately 18 months after death. See next photo.
Corpse Steel Casket
FIGURE 1.61 The body had markedly decomposed while in the concrete for almost two years. No cause of death could be proven. There were no fractures. The woman was thought to have been strangled.
Decompositional Changes After Death
FIGURE 1.62 A woman was abducted, killed, and buried here out in the woods. See next photo.
Decompositional Changes After Death
FIGURE 1.65 This is the top of her head. There were marked decompositional changes by the time the autopsy was performed the next day.
Carbon Monoxidelividity
FIGURE 1.66 This woman was suffocated two days prior to being found. Notice the color change, including the subcutaneous marbling of the skin. See next photo.
Cochlea Autopsy
FIGURE 1.68 The body had a completely different color the next day at the autopsy. Bodies may change from the time of discovery and scene investigation to the autopsy. This is especially true if the bodies are transported over long distances to the morgue.
Autopsy Skin Slippage
FIGURE 1.67 Her body still looked the same as it was being removed to the morgue. See next photo.
Drowning Bodies Morgue
FIGURE 1.70 Notice the lack of blood around the area where the ear is missing. A rat had chewed off this man's ear after he died in a car.
Post Mortem Lividity

FIGURE 1.71 Most postmortem injuries are usually red- FIGURE 1.72 These injuries were caused by insects. The man brown to brown with a lack of blood in or around the was clothed and wrapped in a blanket. The injuries are wounds. However, they may be red if the area is in a depen- somewhat more red than usual. dent position.

FIGURE 1.71 Most postmortem injuries are usually red- FIGURE 1.72 These injuries were caused by insects. The man brown to brown with a lack of blood in or around the was clothed and wrapped in a blanket. The injuries are wounds. However, they may be red if the area is in a depen- somewhat more red than usual. dent position.

Discoid Roaches
FIGURE 1.73 Another example of anthropophagia by ants or roaches. This baby was thought to have been abused because an emergency room (ER) physician saw these marks and became suspicious. The child died of SIDS.
Positions Baby Wound
FIGURE 1.74 A couple with a handicapped son was visited every week by a visiting nurse who worked with the son. She came for her weekly visit and discovered the couple on the kitchen floor. See next photo.
Baby Who Died Sids
FIGURE 1.75 The man had been dead for 4-5 days. The degree of his body's decomposition was consistent with the mail and newspaper buildup outside the house. Autopsy revealed significant coronary artery disease as a cause of death. See next photo.
Body Decomposition 5days
FIGURE 1.76 The son was not as decomposed as the father and his lividity was cherry red. Autopsy revealed physical deformities (he was confined to a wheelchair), a carbon monoxide level of 30% and no other cause for his death. See next photo.
Autopsy Gunshot Wounds
FIGURE 1.77 The mother's body was not decomposed. Autopsy revealed cardiomegaly, pericarditis, and aortic stenosis. Toxicology was negative for all drugs, including the digoxin she was supposed to be taking. See next photo.
Autopsy Gunshot Wounds
FIGURE 1.78 A closer look at the original scene shows the wife with her leg over her husband's leg. The only thing out of place at the scene was an overturned stool next to the bodies. A car in the garage was empty of gas and the key was in the "on" position. See next photo.

FIGURE 1.79 In summary. The father died first of heart disease. The wife killed the son by carbon monoxide in the garage and then killed herself. At the end, she laid next to her husband, grabbed his hand (arrow), and waited for death. Their physician confirmed the fact that the husband and wife had a suicide pact; if one of them died, the other would kill the son and then commit suicide.

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Essentials of Human Physiology

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  • dahlak
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