Adipocere ( //), also known as corpse, grave or mortuary wax, is a wax-like organic substance formed by the anaerobic bacterial hydrolysis of fat in tissue, such as body fat in corpses. In its formation, putrefaction is replaced by a permanent firm cast of fatty tissues, internal organs and the face.
HistoryIn a Hydropicall body ten years buried in a Church-yard, we met with a fat concretion, where the nitre of the Earth, and the salt and lixivious liquor of the body, had coagulated large lumps of fat, into the consistence of the hardest castile-soap: wherof part remaineth with us.
Adipocere is a crumbly, waxy, water-insoluble material consisting mostly of saturated fatty acids. Depending on whether it was formed from white or brown body fat, adipocere is grayish white or tan in color.
In corpses, the firm cast of adipocere allows some estimation of body shape and facial features, and injuries are often well-preserved.
The transformation of fats into adipocere occurs best in the absence of oxygen in a cold and humid environment, such as in wet ground or mud at the bottom of a lake or a sealed casket, and it can occur with both embalmed and untreated bodies. Adipocere formation begins within a month of death, and in the absence of air it can persist for centuries. An exposed, infested body or a body in a warm environment is unlikely to form deposits of adipocere.
Corpses of women, infants and overweight persons are particularly prone to adipocere transformation because they contain more body fat. In forensic science, the utility of adipocere formation to estimate the postmortem interval is limited because the speed of the process is temperature-dependent. It is accelerated by warmth, but temperature extremes impede it.
- ^ a b c d e f Murad, Turhon A. (2008). "Adipocere". In Ayn Embar-seddon, Allan D. Pass (eds.). Forensic Science. Salem Press. pp. 11. ISBN 978-1-58765-423-7.
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- ^ "Decomposition: What is grave wax?". http://web.archive.org/web/20090215164423/http://deathonline.net/decomposition/body_changes/grave_wax.htm. Retrieved 2011-10-06.
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