How taphonomic alteration affects the detection and imaging of striations in stab wounds

Sophie A. Stanley, Sarah V. Hainsworth, Guy N. Rutty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Stabbing with a kitchen knife is a common methodof homicide in Europe. Serrated knives may leave tool mark-ings (striations) in tissues. Documentation of striations is nec-essary for their use as forensic evidence. Traditional methods(physical casting and photography) have significant limita-tions, and micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) has beentrialled in cartilage toBvirtually cast^wounds. Previous re-search has shown the proportion of striations in cartilage fallsfollowing decomposition. This project has investigated theeffects of taphonomic alteration and documentation methodsof striations in porcine skin. Fresh, decomposed, mummified,burnt and waterlogged stab wounds in a porcine analoguewere excised and imaged using photography, stereo-opticalmicroscopy and micro-CT. The proportion of striations ineach taphonomic group was determined from the images byindependent analysts. Striations were observed more frequent-ly in serrated blade wounds, although they were also identifiedin non-serrated blade wounds. The proportion of woundsshowing striations declined following decomposition. An in-versely proportional linear correlation between advancing de-composition and proportion of striations existed. Dehydration(mummification and burning) rendered serrated and non-serrated blade wounds indistinguishable. Water compositionaffected the preservation of striations. Identification ofstriations gradually declined after decomposition in tap water,but persisted to a point when left in brackish water. All threetechniques imaged striations; however, the optimum tech-nique was stereo-optical microscopy due to practical advan-tages and specific limitations affecting photography and mi-cro-CT. This study demonstrates the effects of taphonomicalteration on striations and suggests stereo-optical microscopyis the optimum method for their documentation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)464-475
JournalInternational Journal of Legal Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 29 Oct 2017

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2017. Open Access: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.


  • Forensic imaging, Stabbing, Taphonomy, Micro-computed tomography, Striations, Serrated blade .


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