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Unveiling the Identities of the Juvenile Mummies from the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, Sicily

SQUIRES, Kirsty, Viner, Mark, Hoban, Wayne, Loynes, Robert, Van Shaik, Katherine and Piombino-Mascali, Dario (2024) Unveiling the Identities of the Juvenile Mummies from the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, Sicily. In: 93rd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Biological Anthropologists, 20-23 March 2024, Los Angeles (CA), USA.

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Abstract or description

Two kilometers west of the historic city of Palermo (Sicily) lie the Capuchin Catacombs. This site is home to 1,284 mummified individuals, including the mummified and skeletal remains of at least 163 children. The individuals within the Catacombs provide a window into historical funerary rites, beliefs, and traditions. Until recently, anthropological research has focused on the adults; this study aims to rectify this imbalance. Using a portable direct digital (DR) radiography unit and anthropological methods, forty-three individuals, the majority of whom were housed in the “Children’s Room”, were examined. This methodological approach provided an insight into demography, pathology, funerary attire and artifacts, and mummification methods associated with the children of nineteenth-century Palermo.

In total, 35/43 (81.4%) individuals were between two and eight years of age. The high concentration of young children in the “Children’s Room” may have been an attempt to appeal to visitors’ preferences over the course of the twentieth century. Despite the high social standing of these children, some individuals exhibited Harris Lines, which suggest physiological growth disruption or disturbance. Most individuals (35/43) were spontaneously mummified, while evidence suggests the remaining juveniles were likely offered anthropogenic mummification. This may indicate a difference in social identity and/or status, which was possibly associated with family wealth. The overall findings have revealed new evidence for the age profile, health status, and funerary rites associated with the children who inhabited and died in late modern Palermo, allowing researchers to form a fuller understanding of the city and its inhabitants during this period.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Mummies; Non-adults; Palermo; Health; Development
Faculty: School of Law, Policing and Forensics > Forensic Sciences and Policing
Event Title: 93rd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Biological Anthropologists
Event Location: Los Angeles (CA), USA
Event Dates: 20-23 March 2024
Depositing User: Kirsty SQUIRES
Date Deposited: 24 Apr 2024 13:26
Last Modified: 24 Apr 2024 13:26

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