An autopsy photograph showing multiple flesh wounds caused by a shotgun blast. Unlike other firearms, shotgun shells usually contain multiple small projectiles that expand and spread after the gun has been fired; when flesh contact is made, the projectiles leave multiple, pitted holes rather than a single deep entry wound.

Autopsy photograph showing a bullet entry wound surrounded by a reddish muzzle stamp, or “ring abrasion”.

When a gun is fired from close range, gas forcefully enters the upper skin layers and pushes back out towards the muzzle, rupturing the cells around the bullet wound. Often this leaves a clear imprint - or stamp - that can help investigators determine the position of the shooter, the trajectory of the bullet, and the calibre of the gun.

Decomposition Stain

When a body has been lying in the same place for a certain period of time (usually between 2-3 days in most cases) the blood vessels in the body start to break down and rupture, causing vapors to build up inside the major cavities. The decay of haemaglobin in the blood gives the corpse a greenish tint, while gas build up causes the skin to slip from the muscle structure or tear from internal gas pressure. After four days, the body begins to bloat enourmously, with body fluid leaking out of every orifice.

The result is a brownish stain that grows bigger as more fluid breaks down inside the body. The smell attracts copious amounts of insects, and by the fifth day the body will be host to thousands of maggots (in a room temperature environment).

Sex Differences in Human Skeletons

Even with the aid of modern technology it can still be relatively difficult to determine the sex of a recovered skeleton, particularly if the remains are incomplete or don’t represent an adult. However, there are a few reliable indicators of sex present within a human skeleton, the most obvious of which can be found in the skull.

1. Shape of lower jaw

Males tend to have a much heavier, squarer jaw than females. The bone structure of the lower mandible is much thicker and stronger.

Females tend to have more delicate, rounded lower mandibles with the chin featuring a prominent point.

2. Shape of eyes

Males have much deeper, sturdier orbital sockets with a prominent shelf of bone extending across the brow.

Females have rounder, more widely spaced orbital sockets with no brow bone.

3. Shape of nasal cavity

Males have a pear shaped nasal cavity

Females have a teardrop shaped nasal cavity

4. Size of skull

Males typically have larger, heavier skulls than females and have considerably more bone structure around the jaw, brow, and back of the head.

Female skulls are smaller, more round in shape, with noticeably soft bone structure and a much smoother overall texture.

(Picture represents a male skull on the left and a female skull to the right)

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Two cadavers with ocular discolouration.

Ocular discolouration - also known as ‘tache noir’ or 'black spot’ - occurs when the mucous layer that normally shields the surface of the eye dries out and wrinkles after death. Dust settles over the exposed surface of the iris and scalera, causing it to turn a dark brown or black shade.

People who die with their eyes fully or partially open can appear to be bleeding from their eyes, especially if decomposition is advanced. But the discolouration is in fact only dust and dirt.

A 29-year-old man was found dead lying on a bed in a hotel room in a famous Slovak mountain resort. He had a full-face diving mask on his face, connected through a diving breath regulator to a valve of an industrial (non diving) high-pressure tank containing pure 100% nitrogen. The breath regulator (open-circuit type) used allowed inhalation of nitrogen without addition of open air, and the full-face diving mask assured aspiration of the gas even during the time of unconsciousness. At autopsy, the typical signs of suffocation were evident. Toxicological analysis revealed 94.7% content of nitrogen in alveolar air. Following the completion of the investigation, the death was classified suicide.

What Happens When You Die? A Look At Embalming

Though once only reserved for the very rich and powerful, embalming is a standard funeral service in modern times and modern embalming techniques can produce incredibly lifelike results. Embalming is performed in two stages - surgical and cosmetic - and while methods and materials can vary, the basic procedure remains the same; draining bodily fluids and replacing them with formaldehyde-based solutions.

1. Setting the face

Before the invasive procedure begins the deceased is washed down with disinfectant, and occasionally the limbs are massaged to reduce the effects of rigor mortis. The mouth is usually sewn or wired shut, and the mouth is stuffed with cotton wool to achieve the look of fuller cheeks. The eyes are stuck shut using special mortuary glue, or the mortician may stick a flesh-coloured cap behind the eyelid and glue it into place.

2. Surgical Embalming

The two main methods of surgical embalming are ‘arterial’ and ‘cavity’ embalming.

i) in arterial embalming, a special pump drains the blood from the body of the deceased while another pump circulates a chemical mixture through the emptied veins. The mixture usually contains a combination of formaldehyde, ethanol, water, and alcohol.

ii) in cavity embalming a small incision is made in the stomach of the deceased, and a thin instrument known as a trocar is inserted into the abdominal cavity. The trocar has a small claw attached to a suction pump, and the mortician uses the claw to puncture the organs and jellify them. The liquid is then suctioned out of the body and the cavity is filled with embalming chemicals.

3. Presentation

After the embalming procedure is completed the mortician may circulate a coloured dye through the bloodstream to fix discolouration and mottling. Since fluid has a tendency to leak all bodily orifices will be plugged discreetly with cotton wool. All visible injuries or blemishes will be patted over with coloured dye and covered up with cosmetics. A light-reflecting powder is applied on the face to give it lifelike fullness and a rosy blush gets rid of pallor or dark patches on the skin. After being washed again, the body will be dressed in his/her funeral suit and styled in accordance with the family’s wishes.

The footprint that caught Richard Ramirez. At the time, Ramirez bought a new pair of shoes that were extremely unique and rather easily traceable. Were it not for this footprint, Ramirez might have still been killing to this day.

Saponification is the process of the human body partly or completely turning to soap. The fatty tissue and the liquid from putrefaction gradually form into adipocere, which is also known as grave wax. This process can happen to emabalmed and non-embalmed bodies. It is most common with those who are overweight. The photograph above is of “The Soap Lady” who is housed at the Mutter Museum. She is entirely composed of grave wax.