A British-led team of scientists will soon be examining the 200-years-old mummies of over 163 children found in the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo in northern Sicily, Italy using X-ray technology. According to the Palermo Catacombs website, the site contains at least 1,284 mummified and partially skeletonised bodies, making it the largest collection of mummified remains in Europe. As per a report in Guardian, the research will be headed by Dr Kirsty Squires from Staffordshire University for two years, where the team will focus on the children who died between 1787 and 1880. The research will begin with the 41 bodies residing within the ‘child chapel,’ reported Guardian.
Speaking to the British publication, Dr Kirsty Squires informed that the team of scientists will be carrying out the fieldwork this month. To conduct their research, scientists will carry a portable X-ray unit and take ‘hundreds of images of the children from different angles,’ said Squires. The head researcher also added that scientists are hoping to ‘better understand the development, health and identity of the children by comparing the biological fundings with the more cultural aspect of things like the way the individuals have been mummified and the clothes they are wearing.’
The official site of the Juvenile Mummy Project states that earlier, research on the site has primarily focused on adults, largely ignoring the children who were also mummified. The upcoming research project will be the first to ‘exclusively examine children afforded the mummification rite in late modern (A.D. 1787-1880) Palermo,’ mentioned the Juvenile Mummy Project website. It is reported that there are at least 163 children’s bodies housed in the Catacombs, which includes 41 children located in a designated room for juveniles. Not much is known about these individuals and their origins.
However, the death records from the period have shed light on documents containing limited information like the name of the deceased and the date of their deaths.
Juvenile Mummy Project also mentioned in its statement that the biocultural approach of the research is expected to highlight who these children were, why they were mummified, their identities, and how contemporary society perceived and treated these children.