Rope marks and upper thigh, 1864
Fig. 11. Rope marks created a quarter hour after death. Figure 11 shows the left side of a man 15 minutes after he suffocated from internal causes. Barely 15 minutes after death a number 2 rope was firmly tightened around his neck. Three days later the groove left by the rope was drawn in a manner, as I can testify, that was very accurate. In order to make the drawing, it was necessary in this case to prepare the skin in the entire area shown, whereupon the skin took on the noticeably dirty coloration.
Fig. 12. Rope marks on a suicide victim. The 32-year-old man hanged himself on April 10, and on April 12 the rope marks were drawn. One can see how little pronounced the marks were. Yet it is not uncommon to see far fainter traces of the strangulation tool [the rope] on the neck in cases where hanging undoubtedly occurred while the victim was still alive. The position of the strangulation groove was between the hyoid and the larynx. On the side of the neck shown here (the left side), it [the groove] is barely visible as a dirty brown yellowish and partly gray reddish indentation the width of the rope, which can be cut easily [with a scalpel] and without a trace of bruising [postmortem lividity]. On the right side of the neck the indentation disappears entirely and shows itself again only as a very flat whitish furrow in separate sites underneath the [?] around the back of the neck.
Fig. 13. Rope marks on a suicide victim. An example of a more mummified rope groove. The 56-year-old man hanged himself with a rope made of linen at the end of April. The drawing was made five days later. The band [of linen] ran diagonally across the larynx. The wide spot on the right side of the neck drawn here is the place where the knot was located. The dirt-colored unsugillated mark continues without interruption around the neck and disappears at the mastoid process. Mucous flowed from the urethra and excrement from the anus. The section was not performed.
Fig. 14. A section of skin scraped after death. We have pointed out elsewhere how important it is not confuse apparent sugillation, excoriation (scratching), etc. which might have been caused accidentally or intentionally after death, and which frequently do occur, with the traces of injuries that were incurred while alive. If one persistently and forcefully rubs or excoriates a part of a corpse with a coarse brush or coarse woolen cloth, or if one drags the corpse back and forth across a rough floor, etc. and then observes the corpse again after 24 hours, one will often find traces that one might be taken for a reaction sustained during life, like smaller or larger blue red spots, or a light cinnabar tinted red very clearly distinguishable from the surrounding color of the corpse, dirty yellow-brown skincrusts that are dried up and difficult to cut, etc., depending on the size of the insulted area and the manner in which the friction was caused. The present illustration shows the part of the upper thigh of an old woman who died in June from breast cancer, which part was rubbed 12 hours after death with a coarse flannel cloth. The drawing was made 30 hours later.
Johann Ludwig Casper, M.D., Atlas zum Handbuch der gerichtlichen Medicin [Atlas for the Manual of Legal Medicine] (4th ed., Berlin, 1864) [chromolithograph]; Artist: Hugo Troschel; Lithographer: Winckelmann & Sons
National Library of Medicine