Post-mortem interval

This article is about forensic science. For Rosicrucian death practices, see Rosicrucianism § Preservation period after death.
Stages of death

1. Pallor mortis
2. Algor mortis
3. Rigor mortis
4. Livor mortis
5. Putrefaction
6. Decomposition
7. Skeletonization

Post-mortem interval (PMI) is the time that has elapsed since a person has died. If the time in question is not known, a number of medical/scientific techniques are used to determine it. This also can refer to the stage of decomposition of the body.

Types of change after death

Many types of changes to a body occur after death. Some of those that can be used to determine the post mortem interval are:[1][2]

Traditional decomposition stages

A person who judges the time of death by the means of decomposition can refer to a simple five-stage process:

More advanced methods

More advanced methods include DNA quantification,[5] infrared spectroscopy.[6] and for buried individuals changes in soils such as the levels of methane,[7] phosphates and nitrates,[8] ninhydrin-reactive nitrogen,[9] volatile organic compounds[10] and water conductivity.[11]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Survey of Biological Factors Affecting the Determination of the Postmortem Interval. Bautista, Richard. Spring 2012.
  2. 1 2 Blood, guts, gore and soil: decomposition processes in graves and forensic taphonomic applications. Tibbett, Mark. 2010 19th World Congress of Soil Science, Soil Solutions for a Changing World.
  3. Zilg, B.; Bernard, S.; Alkass, K.; Berg, S.; Druid, H. (17 July 2015). "A new model for the estimation of time of death from vitreous potassium levels corrected for age and temperature". 254: 158–166. doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2015.07.020.
  4. Kokavec, Jan; Min, San H.; Tan, Mei H.; Gilhotra, Jagjit S.; Newland, Henry S.; Durkin, Shane R.; Casson, Robert J. (19 March 2016). "Antemortem vitreous potassium may strengthen postmortem interval estimates". 263. doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2016.03.027.
  5. Lin, X; Yin, YS; Ji, Q (2011). "Progress on DNA quantification in estimation of postmortem interval". Fa yi xue za zhi. 27 (1): 47–9, 53. PMID 21542228.
  6. Huang, P; Tuo, Y; Wang, ZY (2010). "Review on estimation of postmortem interval using FTIR spectroscopy". Fa yi xue za zhi. 26 (3): 198–201. PMID 20707280.
  7. Davla, M; Moore, TR; Kalacska, M; LeBlanc, G; Costopoulos, A (2015). "Nitrous oxide, methane and carbon dioxide dynamics from experimental pig graves". Forensic Science International. 247: 41–47. doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2014.12.002.
  8. Senos Matias, MJ (2004). "An investigation into the use of geophysical methods in the study of aquifer contamination by graveyards". Near Surface Geophysics. 2 (3): 131–136. doi:10.3997/1873-0604.2004010.
  9. Van Belle, LE; Carter, DO; Forbes, SL (2009). "Measurement of ninhydrin reactive nitrogen influx into gravesoil during aboveground and below ground carcass (Sus domesticus) decomposition". Forensic Science International. 193: 37–41. doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2009.08.016.
  10. Vass, A (2012). "Odor mortis". Forensic Science International. 222: 234–241. doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2012.06.006.
  11. Pringle, JK; Cassella, JP; Jervis, JR; Williams, A; Cross, P; Cassidy, NJ (2015). "Soilwater Conductivity Analysis to Date and Locate Clandestine Graves of Homicide Victims". Journal of forensic sciences. 60 (4): 1052–1061. doi:10.1111/1556-4029.12802.
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