(ORDO NEWS) — In Austria, scientists conducted a “virtual autopsy” of the mummified body. A child born into an aristocratic Austrian family in the 17th century turned out to have died overweight and may have been deficient in vitamin D.
It’s amazing how modern technology can unravel the web of mysteries of the past.
Scans revealed lumpy growths on the costal joints, typical of vitamin D deficiency rickets, as well as layers of fat that likely contributed to tissue mummification.
The findings suggest that the child was overfed but likely had little exposure to sunlight, which led to his death.
The child that the scientists examined was found in a crypt near a castle in Upper Austria. An unmarked wooden coffin was found there.
Since there was a constant flow of air and a stable temperature in the crypt, the body was simply dried. “This is a very rare case when a child of aristocrats spontaneously mummified,” the scientists write.
Radiocarbon dating of the body, combined with records of the construction of the crypt, led researchers to conclude that the child was buried approximately 400 years ago.
Given the approximate age of the baby at the time of death – from 10 to 18 months – and silk capes, indicating aristocratic origin, the child was Reichard Wilhelm, who lived from 1625 to 1626, the first-born of Count Starh-Bergsky.
Based on computed tomography (CT) scans of the body, the researchers confirmed that the child was male, and that the size of his bones and cutting teeth corresponded to the child’s age of about a year.
A scan of his costal bones revealed a rickety rosary, a condition typical of severe cases of rickets. This disease occurs primarily due to a lack of vitamin D, which the body produces under the influence of ultraviolet sunlight.
Although the bones of his legs were not twisted – a sure sign of rickets in older children – this could be due to the fact that the infant did not yet walk. One arm bone, however, appeared to be slightly bent.
The infant’s lungs were inflamed, suggesting that he may have died from pneumonia, which often develops with rickets.
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