Saturday, September 3, 2011

Topsy-turvy





A pyramid of mummies, some in very unusual postures, has been found far from Egypt. During restoration work to the northern Italian church of Conversione di San Paolo Apostolo in Roccapelago, a pile of 281 skeletonized and mummified bodies were found in the crypt (see slideshow here). About a third of the remains of adults, infants and children had intact skin, tendons, and hair. The hands of the mummies were clasped in prayer, and they were dressed in simple tunics, socks, and caps of wool, linen, and cotton (video in Italian here). They were found wearing rings, necklaces, religious medallions, and crucifixes that had been fashioned from gold, silver, wood, stone, and glass. "We can say that an entire community, who lived here from the mid-16th to the 18th centuries, has been naturally mummified. This is quite unique," said Donato Labate of the Archaeological Superintendency of Emilia Romagna. The preservation of soft tissue was aided by the constant circulation of air through openings in the wall. Researchers in Ravenna are examining the mummies and skeletons for information about the the isolated Apennine community:
The anthropologists also intend to analyze the textiles and to perform some facial reconstructions. After they are studied, the mummies will be returned to the church, with some being placed on display and the rest being buried on the grounds. But why were the bodies found in a pyramidal heap? After the floor of the crypt had filled up with traditional graves, the dead - wrapped in or shrouds - were simply dropped through a trap door in the floor of the church above!

Thanks, Wright!

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