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Comparison of Rehydration Techniques for Fingerprinting the Deceased after Mummification

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Postmortem decay causes fingertip decomposition, desiccation, shriveling, and rigidity, reducing the possibility of obtaining sufficiently clear fingerprints for identification. In this study, five rehydration solutions (ammonium hydroxide, sodium carbonate, potassium hydroxide, urea, and warm water) followed by three fingerprint recording methods (photograph, inking roll, and dusting tape) were investigated to process mummified fingertips from an unidentified cadaver. The results show that sodium carbonate treatment is the most effective for minutiae restoration, followed by ammonium hydroxide treatment. This study also demonstrates that even those fingertips that previously failed in urea solution, 1% potassium hydroxide solution, and warm water treatment could be further improved with sodium carbonate solution to obtain qualified minutiae for fingerprint matching. The optimal procedure is rehydrating the desiccated fingertips with sodium carbonate solution for 24 h followed by dusting the finger and transferring the print to adhesive tape.
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Keywords: ammonium hydroxide; fingerprint; forensic science; mummified; potassium hydroxide; rehydration; restoration; sodium carbonate

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2017

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