Haunting mystery of 163 ‘superbly preserved’ 200-year-old child mummies may be solved
A heartbreaking “child chapel” in northern Sicily contains the bodies of children believed to have died between 1787 and 1880, but it is not known who they were and how they died – but the mystery could soon be revealed
Scientists hope they may finally unravel the mystery of 163 mummified child corpses after 200 years.
A heartbreaking “child chapel” in northern Sicily contains the bodies of children believed to have died between 1787 and 1880, but it is not known who they were and how they died.Many look as though they are sleeping.
Now a British-led team of experts hope to shed light on their fate.
The remains are in the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, alongside the mummified bodies and skeletons of more than 1,000 adults.
A two-year study has been launched, with 41 bodies set to be X-rayed in the hope they finally reveal how they came to perish.
Researchers hope they can identify who some of the children were ( Image:
Corbis via Getty Images)
Dr Kirsty Squires, of Staffordshire University, told The Guardian that fieldwork would begin this month.
Dr Dario Piombino-Mascali, who is working on the project, said that some of the children are “superbly preserved” and look like “tiny little dolls”.
He said: “Some really look like sleeping children.
“They are darkened by the time but some of them have got even fake eyes so they seem to be looking at you.”
Dr Piombino-Mascali added it was “upsetting” to deal with children in anthropology, stating: “Of course you want to do something to preserve them and to make sure their stories are told and give a sense that they are children. ”
Experts will take a portable X-ray unit and take hundreds of images of the children.
Some of the children look like they are sleeping, a researcher said ( Image:
It is hoped the findings could reveal more about the children’s health and identity, and explain why they were mummified.
Dr Squires previously said: “The Capuchin Catacombs comprise one of the most important collections of mummies in the world.
“However, there is very little documentary evidence about the children who were granted mummification and the death records from the period contain limited information. Our study will rectify this knowledge gap.
“Given that this funerary rite was mainly reserved for adults, we want to understand why the children were mummified.
“We have a fairly good idea that they were from the upper ranks of society, but we don’t know much more about juvenile health, development, or identity during this period.
“This project will provide essential data to determine which children were afforded mummification and to put this into a broader context.”