Human Mummies pp 265-273 | Cite as

Post-mortem alterations of human lipids — part I: evaluation of adipocere formation and mummification by desiccation

  • T. L. Bereuter
  • E. Lorbeer
  • C. Reiter
  • H. Seidler
  • H. Unterdorfer
Part of the The Man in the Ice book series (3262, volume 3)


The discoveries of well-preserved corpses have fascinated scientists, and have been subjects of many investigations. Preservation at the macroscopic level reflects a certain degree of preservation of original structural components of the tissues such as scleroproteins. Nevertheless, transformation processes have to render the body components from the steady state during lifetime to a stable state after death. A stable state is reached if the reaction products are thermodynamically stable or kinetically inert. In addition, these products have to be unattractive for scavengers and microorganisms. This has, indeed, been observed for the three fundamental preservation types, namely (i) mummification by desiccation, (ii) transformation to adipocere, and (iii) “tanning” in the acidic bog environment.


Oleic Acid Palmitic Acid Fatty Acid Pattern Human Corpse Adipocere Formation 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. L. Bereuter
    • 1
  • E. Lorbeer
    • 1
  • C. Reiter
    • 2
  • H. Seidler
    • 3
  • H. Unterdorfer
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute for Organic ChemistryUniversity of ViennaAustria
  2. 2.Institute for Forensic MedicineUniversity of ViennaAustria
  3. 3.Institute for Human BiologyUniversity of ViennaAustria
  4. 4.Institute for Forensic MedicineUniversity of InnsbruckAustria

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