Head and hand of a drownee, 1864
Fig. 7. The head, the neck and the upper chest of a drowned person. The corpse was pulled from the River Spree on May 10 and it was established that it had been lying in the water for three months, which is to say since winter. One can see very clearly the gradations of decomposition coloring from top to bottom. As described elsewhere, one can still see here, just as in many other cases, individual dark red islands in the nearly black coloration of the head. The distortion of the facial features through the irregular swelling of the skin cover is often even more pronounced than it is in the case of this corpse. The brown and red splotches on the neck and chest are pieces of skin exposed through the epidermis. When these skin splotches dry in the open air, they take on this coloration.
Fig. 8. The hand of a drowned person. The 14-year-old boy was pulled from the water in the beginning of May, when the air temperature was 12-14 degrees C., after being in the water for 16 hours. The hand was drawn with extraordinary faithfulness to nature. The blue-gray coloration of skin on the fingers, as well as the lengthwise creasing of the skin, justify the frequently made comparison between the hands of a drowned corpse and those of an asphyxiated cholera victim. Concerning the utter uselessness of this finding as a diagnostic indication of death by drowning see elsewhere in the text.
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