'Van Gogh' mummy found in Spanish church
A well preserved mummy which bears an impressive resemblance to Van Gogh's famous self-portrait has been found in an ancient church in Spain.
The burials were unearthed in 2011, when a part of the floor of the church, also known as the "Piquete," was removed to install the heating system.
|The discovery was made during renovation at the Assumption of Our Lady in Quinto, Spain |
All mummified bodies --11 adults and 24 children -- were then stored in a chapel of the church, and there they remained, wrapped in cloths, waiting for examination.
|The mummies were discovered when part of the church floor was removed to install a heating system in 2011 |
[Credit: Instituto de Estudios Científicos en Momias, Madrid]
"The project is still ongoing. We have begun with five mummies, two adults and three children," Mercedes González, director of the Instituto de Estudios Científicos en Momias in Madrid, told Discovery News.
|To the workers' surprise, the mummified bodies, some in very good state of preservation, emerged from partly |
opened wooden coffins [Credit: Instituto de Estudios Científicos en Momias, Madrid]
"In Spain it was very common for people to be buried with habits of a religious order. Some of these mummies wear Franciscan habits, but they are not monks," González said.
|The bodies were mummified naturally thanks to the very dry soil. They date from the late 18th to mid-19th century, |
based on their clothing [Credit: Instituto de Estudios Científicos en Momias, Madrid]
"They are made of straw and cotton and were used by peasants," González said.
|Some has unusually well-preserved facial hair [Credit: Jorge Sese]|
"Hair usually maintains very well in dry environments, especially if there are no insects such as Dermestidae, or skin beetles," González said.
|In 2014 a project was finally launched to study and restore the collection exhumed in the church and a lab was created |
at the site [Credit: Instituto de Estudios Científicos en Momias, Madrid]
"We are waiting for the results of histological analysis that were sent to several international institutions in Italy, Korea, Nebraska and Brazil," González said.
|Most mummies still have perfectly preserved hair and beards [Credit: Instituto de Estudios Científicos |
en Momias, Madrid]
According to Raffaella Bianucci, a bio-anthropologist in the Legal Medicine Section at the University of Turin, the mummies' excellent state of preservation allows a minimally invasive, in-depth study of skeletal and soft tissue pathologies.
|The mummies were CT scanned to find potential pathologies [Credit: Maria Belchi]|
The large number of children found in the burials might hint to epidemics as the main cause of death. So far the children studied show an age between 6-9 months and 7 years old. CT scans carried out at the Royo Villanova Hospital in Zaragoza, revealed one of them has a possible pathology in his right foot.
|The large number of children found in the burials suggests that epidemics were the main cause of death. In this CT scan |
it appears the child has a possible pathology in his right foot [Credit: Instituto de Estudios Científicos
en Momias, Madrid]
She will detail the preliminary results at the World Congress on Mummy Studies which takes place in August in Lima, Peru.
"By that time, we hope we can give a name to the 'Van Gogh' mummy and know more about his life," González said.
Source: Seeker [May 31, 2016]