Recent advances in the estimation of post-mortem interval in forensic taphonomy

Informa UK Limited
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences, 2019, pp. 1 - 17
Issue Date:
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One of the key elements in a criminal death investigation is the estimation of time since death, as this information can assist with identifying the victim and prosecuting an offender. Estimating post-mortem interval (PMI) is a challenging task given the many variables that act on the rate and process of decomposition. This review presents current advances in estimating PMI in forensic taphonomy. The use of scoring systems based on visual observations and the development of empirical formulas have been proposed for soft tissue analysis. In the absence of soft tissue, the citrate content of bone and radiometric dating are recommended for PMI estimations of hard tissue. Recent studies have shown an increased focus on associated evidence found on or near the remains. This includes botanical and mycological evidence such as vegetation changes, the presence or absence of certain plant species, and fungal succession. Decomposition chemistry represents an emerging discipline where biomarkers can be analysed within different mediums such as tissue, soil associated with decomposing remains and decomposition fluid. Although advances are being made in these many taphonomic disciplines, the field still has a long way to go in terms of finding the elusive formula for accurately estimating PMI of decomposed remains
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