Using Ninhydrin to Detect Gravesoil

D.O. Carter, D. Yellowlees, Mark Tibbett

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    44 Citations (Scopus)


    Some death scene investigations commence without knowledge of the location of the body and/or decomposition site. In these cases, it is necessary to locate the remains or the site where the body decomposed prior to movement. We hypothesized that the burial of a mammalian cadaver will result in the release of ninhydrin reactive nitrogen (NRN) into associated soil and that this reaction might have potential as a tool for the identification of clandestine graves. Juvenile rat (Rattus rattus) cadavers were buried in three contrasting soil types in Australian tropical savanna ecosystems and allowed to decompose over a period of 28 days. Soils were sequentially harvested and analyzed for NRN. Cadaver burial resulted in an approximate doubling (mean = 1.7 +/- 0.1) in the concentration of soil NRN. This reaction has great potential to be used as a presumptive test for gravesoil and this use might be greatly enhanced following more detailed research.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)397-400
    JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


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