L'Aquila Fetus
Human Mummy
Biographical Information
Age 29-week-old
Sex undetermined
Culture Italian
Date(s) Discovered in 2009, approximately 175 years old
Site St. John the Evangelist Church in the Casentino village
Current Location
Location Italy
Catalog #

Investigators found the mummy after a magnitude-6.3 earthquake occurred in L'Aquila, Italy on April 6, 2009. The earthquake damaged many buildings, including the St. John the Evangelist church in the village of Casentino. The floor of the church partially collapsed, exposing underground crypts holding mummified human bodies, including the fetus which dates to about 1840. The fetus was about 29 weeks old.


From examination, it has shown that the bones from the fetus had not been connected due to a medical procedure. The bones had been partially reassembled and dressed with the skull fragments in a type of head gear.


The fetal skeleton was not fully connected or articulated. Gender could not be determined because the morphology of the pelvic and jaw bones were underdeveloped.


Certain features suggested that an operation had taken place. The fetus' skull had been dissected in several places and disconnected from the spine, while its arms had been separated from the rest of the body at the joints, none of which typically occurs in the process of post-mortem examinations. All of these characteristics "strongly suggest a case of embryotomy," which was a procedure that occurred before removing the fetus from the womb, Physicians typically performed it when a mother's life was threatened due to delivery complications or when the fetus was already thought to be dead in the womb.


This mummy was found along with others when a devastating earthquake hit central Italy in April 2009. the damaged caused by the earthquake had collapsed the floor of the church and had reveled the underground rooms where the mummies had been found.

Since the fetus was dressed fully and was reassembled after undergoing the embryotomy, it has been thought that in the community there was a high amount of compassion for the unborn fetus.

On the other bodies found at the site there was medical procedures such as a craniotomy.

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