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Free Fatty Acids Composition in Adipocere of the Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchí Ancient Remains Found in a Glacier

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Adipocere is a postmortem decomposition product consisting of mostly a mixture of free fatty acids (FFAs) that are formed because of the hydrolysis of triglycerides in adipose tissues. This article describes a simple and robust method for the extraction, identification, and quantification of FFA commonly found in adipocere using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC/MS). This method was applied to analyze tissues from Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchí, ancient remains discovered in a retreating glacier in the Tatshenshini-Alsek Park, British Columbia, Canada in August 1999. The lyophilized tissues were grinded and extracted with hexane. The trimethylsilyl fatty acid derivatives were analyzed by GC/MS, and the relative abundances of myristic acid, palmitic acid, oleic acid, and stearic acid were determined. Milligram per gram levels of saturated fatty acids were found in the tissues of the ancient remains, while the levels of unsaturated fatty acids, such as palmitoleic acid, were found to be negligible. The results provided further evidence of the existence of adipocere found during forensic examination of the Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchí ancient remains.

Keywords: adipocere; ancient human remains; extraction method; forensic science; free fatty acids; gas chromatography–mass spectrometry

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Chemistry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1, Canada. 2: Advanced Analysis Center, Korea Institute of Science and Technology, Seoul 130-650 Korea. 3: Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1, Canada.

Publication date: 2010-07-01

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