Sicilian mummies reveal their secrets

Sicilian mummies reveal their secrets

The dissected dead from Sicily from the end of the 16th century to the middle of the 20th century they are found in a large number of crypts and churches. Are "a unique treasure in terms of biology and history”, Affirms the anthropologist Dario PPiombino-Mascali, from the Department of Cultural Heritage and The Identity of Sicily in Palermo.

Research done on these specimens requires X-rays and CT scans to find out what's inside the bodies. According to Piombino-Mascali there is evidence that they were well fedBut isotopic probes have revealed that mummy bones also show signs of diseases such as gout or osteoporosis, which used to affect the middle and upper classes in pre-industrial societies.

The discoveries in Sicily They come from unexpected places: Karl Reinhard, a forensic scientist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and his students conducted a pilot program to examine the inside of the guts of mummies. The program focused on “Piraino 1”, a man in his 40s who lived at the end of the 19th century in the northeast of Sicily.

Radiology has revealed that Piraino 1 had multiple myeloma, a type of cancer. But the real surprise came when they found remains of a plant called Polygala vulgaris in their intestines, which has anti-tumor properties and is used in China and Turkey, although it is believed to be unknown in Sicily. The team also found traces of grape pulp, a purgative of compounds effective in treating cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Further, found a worm infection in the intestinal tract of the subject, a parasitic disease transmitted by feces that was generally associated with the less affluent classes of the time. “Despite the fact that this individual had a wealthy life, we can deduce the kind of activities that he carried out with the lower classes. This demonstrates how the sketch of a disease, diet and time of death can be created from the intestines of a mummy.

But, in the absence of necessary conditions to keep the mummies in an optimal state so that Piombino-Mascali can continue to carry out DNA analysis and continue investigating these facts, the anthropologist shows his concern about this problem. “We have to act quickly to save these mummies. The desire of these people was to be mummified, so we have a moral obligation to keep them in that state. "

Piombino-Mascali stated that the work of his team has had a great effect on the population of Sicily, since for many years death was a taboo subject for the local population.

Almost graduated in Advertising and Public Relations. I started to like history in 2nd year of high school thanks to a very good teacher who made us see that we have to know our past to know where the future takes us. Since then, I have not had the opportunity to investigate more in everything that our history offers us, but now I can take up that concern and share it with you.


Video: Sicilys unusual world of the dead - BBC REEL