Some archaeological or ethnographic specimens are unavailable for direct examination using a scanning electron microscope (SEM) due to methodological obstacles or legal issues. In order to assess the feasibility of using SEM synthetic replicas for the identification of bloodstains (BSs) via morphology of red blood cells (RBCs), three fragments of different natural raw material (inorganic, stone; plant, wood; animal, shell) were smeared with peripheral human blood. Afterwards, molds and casts of the bloodstained areas were made using vinyl polysiloxane (VPS) silicone impression and polyurethane (PU) resin casting material, respectively. Then, the original samples and the resulting casts were coated with gold and examined in secondary-electron mode using a high-vacuum SEM. Results suggest that PU resin casts obtained from VPS silicone molds can preserve RBC morphology in BSs, and consequently that synthetic replicas are feasible for SEM identification of BSs on cultural heritage specimens made of natural raw materials. Although the focus of this study was on BSs, the method reported in this paper may be applicable to organic residues other than blood, as well as to the surface of other specimens when, for any reason, the original is unavailable for an SEM.
Keywords: blood smears; erythrocytes; haemotaphonomy; scanning electron microscopy; specimen preparation.
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