Then & Now: Mummy Studies

Picture of a monk in the Convento dei Cappuccini (top), picture of Dario Piombino-Mascalli examining the body of a two-year-old (bottom)
Top photograph by A.W. Cutler. Bottom photograph by Vincent J. Musi.




In the Convento dei Cappuccini in Palermo, Sicily, the living and the dead are joined together. The bodies, which date from the 16th to 20th centuries A.D., were mummified for about a year, then washed with vinegar and dressed for exposure. Pictured here in the Men Corridor, a padre would lead visitors through the catacombs.




National Geographic grantee Dario Piombino-Mascali examines Rosalia, a two-year-old Sicilian who rests in the Convento dei Cappuccini. As curator of the mummy collection, Piombino-Mascali is involved in modern mummy research, including noninvasive imaging studies that allow internal examination.


“Since 2007, within the framework of the Sicily Mummy Project, we were able to investigate the mummies not only from a radiological viewpoint (thus reconstructing aspects of health, disease, and embalming techniques), but we also started a complete assessment of the environment where they are stored and of the deterioration process affecting them in order to find the best way to preserve this precious cultural heritage,” he says.


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