When due to environmental conditions, there is drying or dessication of the soft tissues of the body, the process of normal decomposition or putrefaction of the dead body is prevented as the growth of the micro-organisms is retarded.

MUMMIFICATIONDefinition – In mummification, there is rapid drying of the dead body due to environmental factors, when the soft tissues become dark hard and stay preserved. The dry, hard skin gets almost adhered with the underlying bones.

In mummification, the skin becomes somewhat transluscent due to absorption of the liquefied subcutaneous fat. Due to mummification the internal organs reduce in their sizes so much that, they may not remain easily identifiable. Reduction in their sizes is gross because their water content as such is very high, which when is totally absorbed and evaporated in mummification, leaves negligible volume of the solid substances in them.

Destruction of such a body occurs late. When left as such in the same environmental condition, in course of months and years, the soft tissues change to dust.

Time required for mummification change to occur —

Depending on the extent of availability of the favourable conditions, time Required for mummification change to occur varies between 3 weeks to 3 months roughly.

Factors favouring mummification change –

1. Hot atmosphere – as in the deserts of the tropics.

2. Dry atmosphere — Mummification cannot occur in high humid condition of the atmosphere.

3. Free air movement – helps rapid evaporation of the body fluid.

4. Contact of the body with absorbing media – e.g. a dead body lying on the sand, infant body covered with a dry absorbing towel, dries up early for absorption of body fluid rapidly.

Medicolegal importances

1. It is one of the surest signs of death.

2. It also gives a rough idea about the time gassed after death. In estimating the time passed after death, the degree of influence of the factors which favour the change, must be taken into account.

3. Identification of the dead body — Once mummification has occurred in a dead body, its identification is possible even after a long period because the body is not grossly destroyed and many identification features like, old scars, deformities, tattoo marks, may be detected after a longtime.

4. Cause of death — As the body is not grossly destroyed, injuries can be detected after a long period even though the injuries are limited within the soft tissue and has not involved the bones.

5. The place of disposal of the dead body after death, can be guessed (dry, hot place with absorbing type of soil etc.).