Unidentified Wiki


On websites that catalog unidentified persons, a common criteria found on each profile is body condition. This parameter describes the state of a corpse, most often in terms of how recognizable it was upon being discovered.

Some websites may deviate from these classifications, but these are the ones that will be most commonly seen on websites such as NamUS and the Doe Network.

Recognizable face

As the name suggests, the physical characteristics of people given this classification can be easily understood by those who look at them. Nothing, such as damage or decomposition, has significantly altered their physical appearance. These people have often just died hours or a few days prior to discovery, but in some cases (particularly those where a body was left in a very cold location), bodies remain facially recognizable weeks after death.

Recognizable face(B) (borderline) is specific to this wiki and describes individuals who may have suffered a little bit of decomposition or traumatic injury to the point where analyzing facial characteristics might be a little complicated, but these factors overall do not make it so it's impossible to physically recognize them.

Not recognizable - Decomposing/putrefaction or Skeletal

Individuals characterized as being "decomposed" have been dead for several days at the very least and at this point, it is difficult to discern basic distinguishing characteristics, such as eye color, or even distinguishing scars and marks. Weight and body type may also be difficult to pinpoint due to bloating.

These issues are worsened as the postmortem interval increases. In the case of skeletal remains, the people in question have often been dead for weeks, and weight, body type, eye color, tattoos, scars, and marks are no longer evident and really cannot be estimated at all. DNA phenotyping may be needed to create realistic images of how these people looked like in life.

Not recognizable - Traumatic injuries

Sometimes, a body is not physically recognizable due to circumstances besides natural processes like decomposition that occur after death. This classification is for people who have suffered some sort of physical damage that has made it rather difficult to discern their features. This damage may have been what caused the person in question to die (such as being hit by a vehicle or falling from extreme heights), or may have been inflicted upon the person postmortem, possibly by someone else in an attempt to hide their identity.

For example, homicides or suspicious deaths involving dismemberment where the head is not found would classify as traumatic injuries. Some cases of this nature are also classified as "Not recognizable - partial remains with soft tissues". For these people, facial analysis is obviously impossible, and DNA phenotyping is necessary to give the public a rough estimate of what they may have looked like.

Other not recognizable

Other cases where remains are classified as unrecognizable include those where the remains are burnt beyond recognition (not recognizable - charred/burned) or where organisms living in the location where the remains were located have eaten or otherwise damaged the remains (not recognizable - insect/animal activity).