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Modern Scientific Evidence Pertaining to Criminal Investigations in the Chosun Dynasty Era (1392–1897 A.C.E.) in Korea

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A guidebook detailing the process of forensic investigation was written in 1440 A.C.E. It outlines the fundamentals and details of each element of criminal investigation during the era of the Chosun dynasty in Korea. Because this old guidebook was written in terms of personal experience rather than on scientific basis, it includes many fallacies from the perspective of modern forensic science. However, the book describes methods to form a scientific basis for the experiments performed. We demonstrate the modern scientific basis for ancient methods to monitor trace amounts of blood and detect lethal arsenic poisoning from a postmortem examination as described in this old forensic guidebook. Traces of blood and arsenic poisoning were detected according to the respective color changes of brownish red, due to the reaction of ferric ions in blood with acetic ions of vinegar, and dark blue, due to the reaction of silver with arsenic sulfide.
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Keywords: Bloodstain; Chosun dynasty; acetic acid; arsenic poison; forensic investigation; forensic science; silver

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2014

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