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The "Hercules" captain tragedy: medical criminalist reconstruction

Russian Center of forensic expert examination
Moscow. Russia

It was only in 2000 that the human remnants of presumably one of the members of the lost Rusanov's expedition were first found on Taimyr. N.Ya. Salnikov, head of the Oriol TV-radio company monitoring group, said that the bones had been lying in tundra at the foot of the Minin mountain.

The experts of Oriol forensic medical examination bureau think that the death of the unknown man of 30-40 years old occurred about 100 years ago. So it was assumed that these bones are the ones ofV.A. Rusanov.

The bones came to the Identification department of the Russian Center of the forensic expert examination in September 2000. At about the same time we received the photographs of several participants of the expedition: Kutchin A.S. (3), Rusanov V.A. (5), Belov K.A. (1), Tcheremkhin V.T. (1), Ermolin P.M. (2), and Juliet Jan-Sossin (1). Eight photos of A.S. Kutchin and his relatives were sent by his fellow-town men from Onega.

The skull without its lower part and four fragments of bones - left thigh-bone, right shoulder bone and left shoulder blade - were presented for examination.

The skeleton bones are badly damaged. The thighbone 427 mm long has its upper epiphyse missing and only the middle part of tlie lower epiphyse is preserved. While the shoulder bone is without its upper epiphyse, its lower part is almost intact. The fragment is 297 mm the longest. The shoulder blade is more seriously destroyed: only the lateral part with its joint plate and the base of the bone is safe. The front section of the alveolar appendix of the skull and its pear-shaped lower-left comer is broken up.

The front-lateral sides of the bones are of brownish-ochre colour. The back side is whitish-gray, rough, with shallow cracks and separable scales. No doubt, this is clear evidence of weathering, solar radiation and a long stay of the bones on the surface. The most colourless is the right side of the skull. It could be inferred that the most probable position of the corpse was face down with the right side of his head on the earth. The bone remnants are covered with dry moss, filling all natural holes and the skull cavity. In ultraviolet the bone surface glows dark-brown, velvety colour, with some whitish-violet parts. The luminescence of the bone edges is mainly whitish with tints of gray-blue. The bone tissue lacks fat, is porous and fragile. The said properties indicate that the death occurred as early as 50-100 years ago (E.M. Евгеньев - Тиш, 1963).

The bone remnants must have been of the skeleton of one man. It is proved by the luminescence of the mentioned type and by the results of the emission spectrum analysis. All the bone fragincni.s, Ihu skull included, contain Si, I", Mn, 1'e, Al, Си, Na, I'b, Sr, Ti. It should be mentioned that the content of Mn, Fe, Al, Ti (in AS) is slightly higher in the shoulder and, especially, in thighbones. However, the difference is insignificant and can be accounted for by the fact that the samples have been taken from various parts of the bones, those that were in contact with the earth included.

The bones belonged to a young man. There are still commissures both on exterior and interior parts of the skull. The enamel of the intact teeth is only slightly rubbed out. It is worth noticing that there are also alveolars of the "wisdom teeth". At the same time, judging by the alveolar form, atypical for the premolar (anomalous development), the second milk-molar might have persisted. There is still a number of feeding holes in the epiphyses of the long tubular bones. Exposed spongy tissue of the thigh and shoulder bones is trabecular and with small cells. The top of the marrow cavity is below the shoulder shaft and small thigh spit. It may be conceded that the skeleton belonged to an adult (from 18-22 to 30-35 years old) person probably of about 22-27.

The results of the craniometric examination unmistakably indicate that the skull belonged to a nialu. ll is pertinent to note the considerable length of the cranium and its horizontal circumference (527 mm, corresponding to 57-58 size of a headdress) and a large occipital hole. The secondary sexual features (a protruding nose bridge, superciliary arches, a prominence on the exterior side of the cheekbones and the lines of the coronal, pariental and temporal bones) are strongly pronounced.

The form of the thighbones with their marked pilaster, the front-back curved diaphyse and muscular relief also indicates that the long tubular bones belonged to a physically developed man.

Even though it is difficult to determine the sex by the size of long tubular bones, some of their features, according to Y.-B.Y. Neinis (1972), can be taken into account.

The well-known specialist in odontopoly A.A. Zubov points out that the morphology of the three intact teeth shows the European origin of the skull.

The craniometries is typical of the north-European local race, with White Sea - Baltic properties prevailing. As is well known, humans of this type have light skin that is pigmented, in contrast to humans of the Atlantic-Baltic type. They are of medium height, sparsely bearded, with straight or slightly concave comparatively short, nose and a short face. They are inhabitants of the eastern Europe.

All the mentioned features closely match those of A.S. Kutshin as shown on the photographs.

To determine craiiio-lucial rcbtions and (lie elements of the physical appearance by the fragments of long tubular bones is extremely difficult. Therefore, we had to predict the nose height and the upper and complete height of the face as well as the size of the lower jaw. We made use of the regression equation (V.N. Zvyagin, 1986) to solve the problem. Perhaps, this might have adversely affected the results of the cranio-facial identification.

The length of the shoulder and thigh bones, determined by the calculation formulae, is 324.00±2.4 mm (N.N. Mamonova, 1968) and 462.1±7.5 mm (Steel, McKern, 1969). The reconstructed lengths of the bones indicate that the man was most likely to be 168±2 cm tall.

The man's bones are of gracial type skeleton, which often correlates with a somatic thorax. Taking into account the pronounced muscular prominence of the long bones and the plate-shaped joint cavity of the blade, it can be conceded that the man may have been of pectoral muscular build with his body mass (calculated by the dry mass of the skeleton) 62.8±6 kg (Baker, Newmann, 1957).

Somatic characteristics of A.S. Kutchin on the photographs fairly correspond to those diagnosed.

Only the materials related to A.S. Kutchin have been comparatively studied in detail. This choice has been made by the results of sex, age and race diagnosis as well as the proportions of the face and somatic features. The studied remnants could not belong to V.A. Rusanov because of both their age and the features of his general appearance. Neither could the studied skull belong to the "Hercules" sailors - V.T. Tcheremkhin, who was clearly of southern-European anthropological type, nor to P.M. Ermolin whose face was of quite different size and proportions. As for K.Belov, the statement by P. Bashmakin is to be taken into consideration:

"He was a short, but muscular, sturdily-built man". It is clear that the somatic features of the studied skeleton are quite different.

Comparison of the description of Kutchin (asymmetry of the face width, eyebrows position, the shape of his eyes, prognatism, the turn of the front plane of his face) with the features of the skull also indicates that both the skull and Kutchin's photographic portrait are, most likely, of one and the same man.

The examination of the full-face photograph of Kutchin and the skull using the computer quantitative method (V.N.Zvyagin et al., 2000) has shown a complete match in 24 out of the 26 features examined. No difference between the dimensions of Kutchin's face elements and those of the skull has been found.

Meanwhile, the results of the cranio-facial identification by the POSK.ID 1.1 method (V.N. Zvyagin, 2001) turned out to be vague. We are inclined to think that it is because of the deformation of the skull (the split of the'arrow-shaped commissure due to the years long effect of the polar weathering).

In conclusion, a few words about what the man was ill with and what the cause of his death was. First, paradonthopathy is to be taken into account. This is a group of diseases with similar clinical symptoms: chronic inflammation of tissues around the teeth, seemingly healthy teeth falling out etc. These might be the symptoms of scurvy.

Attention is to be paid to the cyst of the alveolar appendix of the right upper jaw and the right-side ma.stoidytf accompanied by osteomyclilis of the marrow. These damages can lead to the inflammation of the brain resulting in death even when timely and purposely treated.

The upper walls of the eye-sockets of the skull are also highly porous (the so called cribru orhitulis), which is the symptom of iron deficiency anaemia.

Thus, the results of the forensic expert examination indicate that the found bones are very likely to belong to the captain of "Hercules" A.S. Kutchin. The missing parts of the bones of his skeleton are still to be found and additional items are to be collected for further comparative study. Information about F.A. Bykovsky, V.G. Popov, A.A. Ravvin, K.A. Semyonov and A.S. Tchukhchin is to be paid special attention to. At present we have no material about them at our disposal.

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