Virtual autopsy and forensic anthropology of a mummified fetus: a report of one case

J Forensic Sci. 2008 Jan;53(1):208-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2007.00602.x.


A jar containing the mummified body of a fetus was found in a bush near a building. Full-body multislice computed tomography (MSCT) was performed prior to autopsy to study the bones and internal organs. Age was estimated by measuring femoral and tibial lengths and examining the temporal and occipital bones. The results were then compared with the autopsy and histopathological findings. MSCT was superior to autopsy for examination of the bones and internal organs. Autopsy was difficult because of the fragility of the dried corpse. MSCT determined the gestational age of the fetus and excluded skeletal abnormalities. Estimated age was similar with the two methods used. However, the major advantage of MSCT was rapid measurement of bones or anatomical regions which are difficult to examine during autopsy and which required specific preparation for further anthropological study. This case report illustrates the possibilities offered by MSCT for studying mummified bodies, even fetuses.

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy / methods
  • Cochlea / pathology
  • Ear, Middle / pathology
  • Fetus / pathology*
  • Foot / pathology
  • Forensic Anthropology
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Mummies / pathology*
  • Osteogenesis
  • Temporal Bone / pathology
  • Tibia / pathology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods