An Open Mind
A mounted human head strikes a brain-teasing pose—just one of eight forgotten but stunningly preserved 19th-century Italian mummies whose secrets of preservation have only recently been unraveled.
Working in the town of Salò, anatomist Giovan Battista Rini (1795-1856) "petrified" the corpses and body parts by bathing them in a cocktail of mercury and other heavy metals, according to new chemical analyses and CT scans, to be described in a future issue of the journal Clinical Anatomy.
The study marks the first time a collection of Italian mummies made for anatomy studies has been analyzed in detail, according to study team member Dario Piombino-Mascali, a forensic anthropologist at the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Bolzano, Italy.
(Pictures: "Lifelike 'Wet Mummy Found During Roadbuilding.")
Mummy Pictures: Secrets of Stunning 19th-Century Heads Revealed
Their heads may be peeled like onions, and they may be 150 years old, but these Italian mummies are oddly lifelike. Now we know why.