|Daniello Gattolini |
In a small town in Northern Italy known as Venzone, in the province of Udine, underneath the town's cathedral was found to
contain preserved bodies, with many of the many of the mummies being well identifiable. The bodies had been being buried there as far back as the 1600's.
When the bodies had been found in this condition, there were up to 45 mummies that were on display and under study. However, in 1976, an earthquake struck the town and only 15 of the bodies were salvaged. Of the 15, remaining mummies is the body of Daniello Gattolini, an ancient nobleman. Daniello was thought to be around 75 years old.
There have been many theories and hypotheses for how the corpses had been so well preserved. Since the mummification of the bodies was not done meaningfully, there was no traceable or known reason for how the preservation had occurred. The mummies were said to be very light weight, from 22 to 44 pounds in total. It was the skin of the mummies that stood out, the skin had dried to something like a light leather.
At first it was believed that the mummification had something to do with factors in actual tombs they were buried within. Some thought the preservation was caused by things like lime, alumina, or salts of niter. All of which are known to have preservative qualities. However with further investigation, it was found that no such substances were found.
Eventually it has been decided that the true cause of the mummification was a fungi known as Hyphae tombicina, while most agree on this cause, some scientists believe it may have been the limestone present in the earth.
There were many studies conducted on and about the mummies found in Venzone. One such study is the "Investigations the Cutaneous Damage of Ancient Natural Mummies. The Case of the Venzone Collection" which is an investigation of the damage caused to the skin/dermis of the mummies through the restorations that took place up till 2009. This topic was one of interest as this is not the only study done in the topic.
These mummies were also of great interest in studies of natural mummification since their preservation occurred naturally. The Venzone mummies are often referenced and known as some of the most popular naturally occurring mummies. Such as the study: "Natural and artificial 13th–19th century mummies in Italy," which sites the Venzone mummies as some of the oldest known natural mummies in Italy.
Hyphae tombicina is the fungus that was found covering the wooden coffins and the bodies within. The fungus works by growing and dehydrating the bodies very rapidly before natural decomposition can occur. It is the cause of the leathery skin of the mummies and why they are so well identifiable.
Limestone in surrounding earth is another explanation for the mummification as limestone has hygroscopic properties that allow it to absorb moisture.
Ultimately, the exact reason for the natural mummification of the Venzone mummies is the ultimate mystery.
Fornaciari, G., & Capasso, L. (1996). Natural and artificial 13th--19th century mummies in Italy. In K. Spindler, H. Wilfing, E. Rastbichler-Zissernig, D. zur Nedden, & H. Nothdurfter (Eds.), Human Mummies: A Global Survey of their Status and the Techniques of Conservation (pp. 195–203). Vienna: Springer Vienna. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-7091-6565-2_19
MessageToEagle. (2016). Strange Mummies Of Venzone: Ancient Bodies That Never Decompose Remain An Unsolved Mystery | MessageToEagle.com. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from http://www.messagetoeagle.com/strange-mummies-venzone-ancient-bodies-never-decompose-remain-unsolved-mystery/
VENZONE (Ud): Chapel of St. Michael and the mummies. | Archeocarta of Friuli Venezia Giulia. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2017, from http://www.archeocartafvg.it/portfolio/venzone-ud-cappella-di-san-michele-e-mummie/
First to Know. (2015). The Mummies of Venzone - Why Do These Ancient Bodies in Italy Refuse to Rot? Retrieved March 14, 2017, from http://firsttoknow.com/mummies-of-venzone/
BAGGIERI, G. (1983). Investigations the Cutaneous Damage of Ancient Natural Mummies. The Case of the Venzone Collection. Journal of applied cosmetology (Vol. 28). International Ediemme. Retrieved from http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=23762006