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Questionable Patterns

No matter how definite fingerprint rules and pattern definitions are

made, there will always be patterns concerning which there is doubt as

to the classification they should be given. The primary reason for

this is the fact that probably no two fingerprints will ever appear

which are exactly alike. Other reasons are differences in the degree

of judgment and interpretation of the individual classifying

fingerprints, the
difference in the amount of pressure used by the

person taking the prints, and the amount or kind of ink used. Nothing

can be done about faulty inking or pressure once the prints are taken.

The patterns which are questionable merely because they seem to have

characteristics of two or more types can be classified by strict

adherence to the definitions in deducing a preference. The following

section is devoted to such patterns with an explanation of each.

Figure 297 has two loop formations. The one on the left, however, has

an appendage abutting upon the shoulders of its recurve at a right

angle. The left portion of the impression, therefore, is of the tented

arch type. The combination of two different types of patterns would be

classified in the whorl group (accidental), but this impression has

only the one delta. The right portion of the pattern detail contains a

true loop which fulfills all the loop requirements, i.e., a sufficient

recurve, a delta, and a ridge count across a looping ridge. In the

choice existing between a tented arch and a loop, preference is given

to the loop classification and this impression would be classified as

a loop.

Figure 298, at a glance, seems to fulfill the requirements of a whorl

(two deltas and a ridge making a complete circuit). The part of the

circuit in front of the right delta, however, cannot be construed as a

recurving ridge because of the appendage abutting upon it in the line

of flow. This pattern, therefore, is a one-count loop.

Figure 299 is a very difficult and unusual pattern. It has

characteristics of three types, the whorl, the loop, and the tented

arch. It is given the preference of an accidental type of whorl (loop

over a tented arch). This pattern should be referenced both as a loop

and as a tented arch.

Figure 300 is shown for the purpose of explaining that in the whorl,

as this print is, appendages at the top of the recurve will not spoil

or affect the recurve. Hence, the impression is a good whorl of the

central pocket loop type and needs no reference.

Figure 301 is classified as a whorl of the double loop type. There are

present two distinct loops and two deltas (the right delta is not

present as the impression was not rolled sufficiently). The pattern is

unusual because the loops are side by side and flowing in the same

direction. The tracing is an inner tracing.

Figure 302 should present no difficulty. It is classified as a plain

arch for its ridge construction follows the rule of a plain arch,

i.e., enter one side and flow or tend to flow to the other.

Figure 303 is a plain arch. The dot at the center is not elongated

enough to be considered an upthrust. A dot, even though as thick and

heavy as the surrounding ridges, is not considered for any purpose but

ridge counting or fixing a delta.

Figure 304 is a pattern somewhat similar to the previous illustration.

As indicated before, dots are considered as ridges only in ridge

counting and fixing a delta. This pattern, therefore, must be

classified as a plain arch, rather than a tented arch with two ending

ridges and a delta formation.

Figure 305, although showing an appendage upon each recurve on the

left side, is classified as a whorl of the central pocket loop type,

with two deltas and a recurve in front of each. To spoil the recurve

of a whorl the appendage must be connected to the recurve at the point

of contact with the line of flow.

In figure 306, the impression has two equally good loop formations. As

it has but one delta, it cannot be classified as a whorl of the double

loop type nor as a loop since it would be difficult to make a

preferential choice between the two looping ridges. It is arbitrarily

given the classification of a tented arch.

In figure 307, the difficulty lies in locating the delta. The only

ridges answering the definition of type lines (ridges running parallel

and then diverging to enclose the pattern area) have three ending

ridges between them. The type lines, the delta, and the core are

located as indicated. The pattern is classified as a six-count loop.

Figure 308 is classified as a tented arch, although it appears at

first glance to be a loop. Closer inspection shows that the looping

ridge does not tend to go out the side from which it entered but

rather seems to proceed downward ending in an abutment forming a

definite angle of 90 deg..

In figure 309, an impression is shown which at first appears to be a

loop. Closer inspection will show that one of the elements of the loop

type is missing, namely, a ridge count across a looping ridge; for it

is to be borne in mind that the recurve of the innermost loop should

be free of appendages abutting between the shoulders at right angles.

The core, in this illustration, therefore, is placed where the

appendage of the innermost loop touches the next ridge which is a good

recurve. If an imaginary line is placed between delta and core, it

will be seen that there are no intervening ridges; hence, there is no

ridge count.

Figure 310 is a pattern which contains two elements of a loop but

lacks the third. It is classified as a tented arch. Thus an impression

having a delta and a recurve, but not having a ridge count across a

looping ridge, falls into this classification.

It will be noticed that although this pattern has the resemblance of a

plain arch, the center of the impression actually contains a partially

formed loop. A recurving ridge enters from the right side and exits in

the same direction. A delta also appears just below the recurve. In

attempting to obtain a ridge count, it is seen that the imaginary

line drawn between the delta and the core runs directly along the

ridge emanating from the former and which is joined onto the side of

the recurving ridge. For this reason, no ridge count is possible.

Figure 311 is a tented arch. There are three loop formations, each one

of which is spoiled by an appendage abutting upon its recurve between

the shoulders at a right angle. It cannot be classified as an

accidental as the patterns are all of the same type, i.e., tented

arches. An accidental type of whorl is a combination of two or more

different types of patterns exclusive of the plain arch.

Figure 312 is a loop. It cannot be classified as a whorl of the double

loop type because the formation above the lower loop is too pointed

and it also has an appendage abutting upon it at a right angle.

Figure 313 at first glance appears to be a whorl of the double loop

type. Upon closer inspection, however, it will be noticed that there

are no delta formations other than on the recurves. There are, then,

two tented arch formations. As two patterns of the same type cannot

form an accidental whorl, the impression must be classified as a

tented arch.

Figure 314 is an accidental whorl, combining a loop and a tented arch.

The tented arch is directly beneath the innermost loop, and is of the

upthrust type.

Figure 315 consists of a loop over a dot with an apparent second

delta. This pattern must be classified as a loop, as a dot may not be

considered an upthrust unless elongated vertically.

Even though a dot may be as thick and heavy as the surrounding ridges,

it may be considered only in ridge counting or fixing a delta.

Figure 316 at first glance appears to be an accidental whorl, but on

closer inspection it proves to be a loop. Although there are three

delta formations present, it should be observed that recurving ridges

appear in front of only one (D-1).

Figure 317 has the general appearance of a loop. The looping ridge A,

at the center, has an appendage B abutting upon its recurve. The

abutment is at right angles and therefore spoils the recurve. The

pattern is a tented arch.

Figure 318 is a tented arch which approaches both the loop and the

whorl type patterns. It cannot be considered a whorl, however, as the

recurve on the left is spoiled by an appendage (figs. 58 and 59). Nor

can it be a loop because there is no ridge count across a looping

ridge. The pattern, then, is a tented arch of the type possessing two

of the basic characteristics of the loop and lacking the third. The

delta and the sufficient recurve are present but the ridge count is


Figure 319 seems at first glance to be a double loop. It will be

noted, however, that the inner delta formation would be located upon

the only looping ridge of the upper loop formation. Since the delta

would be located on the only recurve, this recurving ridge is

eliminated from consideration. The pattern is classified as a loop.

Figure 320 is a loop of two counts, with the delta at B. There is a

ridge making a complete circuit present, but point A cannot be used as

a delta because it answers the definition of a type line. It should be

considered a delta only if it presented an angular formation. Placing

the delta upon the recurve would spoil that recurve.

Figure 321 shows two separate looping ridge formations appearing side

by side and upon the same side of the delta. The core in such case is

placed upon the nearer shoulder of the farther looping ridge from the

delta, the two looping ridges being considered as one loop with two

rods rising as high as the shoulder. The ridge count would be four

(fig. 49).

Figure 322 is an accidental whorl. It is classified thus because it

contains elements of three different patterns, the loop, the double

loop, and the accidental. In such case the order of preference

governs. The delta at the left is point A. The delta at the right is

point C. This point becomes the delta since it is the point nearest

the center of the divergence of the type lines. Point B is eliminated

from consideration as a delta since type lines may not proceed from a

bifurcation unless they flow parallel after the bifurcation and before


Figure 323 is a loop. There are two delta formations but the dots

cannot be considered as obstructions crossing the line of flow at

right angles. This precludes the classification of the central pocket

loop type of whorl.

Figure 324 is a loop, the two recurving ridges have appendages and are

considered spoiled. The pattern cannot, therefore, be a whorl even

though two delta formations are present.

Figure 325 is classified as a tented arch. If examined closely the

pattern will be seen to have an appendage abutting at a right angle

between the shoulders of each possible recurve. Thus no sufficient

recurve is present.

Figure 326 is a plain arch. There is present no angle which approaches

a right angle. Points A, B, and X are merely bifurcations rather than

an abutment of two ridges at an angle.

Figure 327 is a tented arch, not because of the dot, however, as it

cannot be considered an upthrust. The tented arch is formed by the

angle made when the curving ridge above the dot abuts upon the ridge

immediately under and to the left of the dot.

Figure 328 consists of two separate looping ridge formations in

juxtaposition upon the same side of a common delta. This pattern

cannot be called a double loop as there is no second delta formation.

In order to locate the core, the two looping ridges should be treated

as one loop with two rods in the center. The core is thus placed on

the far rod (actually on the left shoulder of the far loop), resulting

in a ridge count of four (fig. 49).

Figure 329 is a loop of three counts. It cannot be classified as a

whorl as the only recurve is spoiled by the appendage abutting upon it

at the point of contact with the line of flow.

Figure 330 is a plain arch as there is no upthrust (an upthrust must

be an ending ridge), no backward looping turn, and no two ridges

abutting upon each other at a sufficient angle.

Figure 331 is a plain arch. The ending ridge at the center does not

rise at a sufficient angle to be considered an upthrust, and it does

not quite meet the ridge toward which it is flowing and therefore

forms no angle.

Figure 332 is a plain arch. There are two ending ridges, but no

separate delta formation is present.

Figure 333 is a plain arch. The rising ridge at the center is curved

at the top forming no angle, and does not constitute an upthrust

because it is not an ending ridge.

Figure 334 is a whorl of the double loop type. Two loops and two

deltas are present. It is unusual because the loops are juxtaposed

instead of one flowing over the other, and one delta is almost

directly over the other. The tracing is a meeting tracing.

Figure 335 is a tented arch. Although there is a looping ridge, no

ridge count can be obtained. The core is placed upon the end of the

ridge abutting upon the inside of the loop, and so the imaginary line

crosses no looping ridge, which is necessary.

Figure 336 is a plain arch. The ending ridge at the center cannot be

considered an upthrust because it does not deviate from the general

direction of flow of the ridges on either side. No angle is present as

the ending ridge does not abut upon the curving ridge which envelopes


Figure 337 is a plain arch because the dot cannot be considered a

delta as it is not as thick and heavy as the surrounding ridges.

Figure 338 is a tented arch consisting of two ending ridges and a

delta. The short ending ridge is considered a ridge because it is

slightly elongated and not a mere dot.

In figure 339, the only question involved is where to stop tracing.

The rule is: when tracing on a ridge with an upward trend, stop at

the point on the upward trend which is nearest to the right delta. X

is the point in this pattern.

In figure 340, the question involved is also one of tracing. In this

pattern, the tracing is not on a ridge with an upward trend. The

tracing, therefore, is continued until a point nearest to the right

delta, or the right delta itself, is reached. This tracing is a

meeting tracing.

There are a few constantly recurring patterns which, though not

questionable or doubtful as they appear, present a peculiarly

difficult problem in classifying. The patterns referred to are usually

double loops, though accidental whorls and loops sometimes present the

same problems. The difficulty arises when a loop is so elongated that

the recurve does not appear until near the edge of a fully rolled

impression or an impression that is rolled unusually far, as in

figures 341 to 344.

Figure 341, if classified as it appears, would be an accidental whorl.

Figures 342 and 343 would be double loops, and illustration 344, a

loop. It will be observed that these prints are rolled more fully than

normal. If, however, the next time the prints are taken, they are not

rolled quite so far, the patterns would require a very different

classification, and would show no indication of any need for

referencing to their true classification. The result would be a

failure to establish an identification with the original prints. The

only way in which such an error may be avoided is to classify such

impressions as they would appear if not so fully rolled, and to

conduct a reference search in the classification which would be given

to the prints when rolled to the fullest extent. Applying this rule,

illustration 341 is a tented arch, referenced to a whorl. Figures 342

and 343 are loops, referenced to whorls. Figure 344 is a plain arch,

referenced to a loop.

No set rule can possibly be devised to enable a classifier to know

with certainty where to draw the line when it is doubtful which

classification should be given such a print. Individual judgment is

the only standard. The test is: if the pattern, in the opinion of the

classifier, is rolled to only a normal width, it should be classified

as it appears. If it seems to be rolled to a width beyond the normal

degree, it should be classified as if rolled only to the normal

degree. Age, weight, size of fingers (as seen in the plain

impressions), heaviness of the ridges, and experience of the

technician in taking fingerprints are all factors in arriving at the

correct conclusion. The necessity for exercising the utmost care in

dealing with this type of pattern cannot be too highly emphasized.

The patterns in figures 345 and 346 also have a second loop near the

edge of the impression. In these two patterns, however, the second

loop is very near the delta and consequently will almost invariably

appear even though not rolled to the fullest extent. The foregoing

rule is not applied to this type of impression. Both are classified as

a whorl and referenced to a loop to take care of the rare contingency

of nonappearance.