Scientists in Germany have examined the mummy of a 17th-century child, using the latest scientific advances combined with historical records to shed new light on Renaissance childhood.
The child was found in the crypt of an Austrian aristocratic family, where the conditions of his burial and embalming made it possible to preserve soft tissues containing important information about his life and death, to the extent that they can be analyzed using the latest technologies to reveal more details about his life and death .
“Virtual Showdown” Shows 17th Place century mom was an aristocratic kid who died of pneumonia https://t.co/ZEUoRvlPGi
— Daily Mail UK (@DailyMailUK) October 26, 2022
Ironically, this was the only unidentified body in the crypt, where it was buried in an unmarked wooden coffin, while the rest of the family were buried in elaborately decorated metal coffins.
A team led by Dr. Andreas Nerlich from the Munich Academic Hospital performed a virtual autopsy and radiocarbon dating, examining family records and evidence of key burial materials to understand who this child was and what his short life looked like. .
researchers found that the child, although born into a wealthy family, was malnourished and ill with pneumonia.https://t.co/2lsR6pXpZ2
— Metro Science and Technology (@Metro_Tech) October 26, 2022
Nerlich, lead author of the article published in Frontiers, said: in Medicine: “This is just one case, but we know that early infant mortality rates at that time were generally very high, and our observations may have had a significant impact on the overall reconstruction of the lives of children, even in the upper social classes.”
Virtual autopsy was performed using computed tomography. Nerlich and his team measured the length of the bones and looked at teething and long bone formation to determine that the child was 12 to 18 months old at the time of death.
The soft tissue showed that the baby was male and overweight for his age because his parents could feed him well, but the bones tell a different story.
When researchers performed a virtual autopsy of the body using CT scans, they found that his ribs had deformed in a pattern called “rib rickets” that is commonly seen in severe rickets or scurvy.
This indicates that although he was given enough food to gain weight, he was still malnourished enough to develop one of these diseases.
Although his bones did not bend like they would normally in a person with rickets, his approximate age suggests that he died before he was old enough to walk or crawl, causing the bone to deform.
A virtual autopsy revealed that the child had pneumonia characteristic of “pneumonia,” or pneumonia as it’s also called, and a vitamin D deficiency after hiding her from the sun’s rays.
In the end, the researchers suggested that this infection was the cause of his death, but the reason for this may be a lack of nutrition.
Researchers at Munich’s Bogenhausen Academic Hospital in Germany say that during the Renaissance, people of high social standing avoided exposure to sunlight because aristocrats were required to have white skin, and this also applies to small babies.
“The combination of obesity and severe beriberi can only be explained by a generally good nutritional state combined with an almost complete lack of exposure to sunlight,” Nerlich said. “We must reconsider the living conditions of the aristocratic babies of the former population.”
Although there was also a bone deformity in his skull, it is believed that this occurred after his death, as it was not accompanied by bone fractures, blood residue, or tissue damage.
He also suggested that this was the result of his narrow, flat coffin, not large enough for his body.
And when it came to finding out the identity of the child, more clues could be gleaned from the remains.
A specialized examination of his clothing showed that he was buried in a long coat covered with a hood of expensive silk, and radiocarbon dating of a skin sample indicates that he was buried sometime between 1550 and 1635.
Researchers have also looked into the history of the crypt and found that this is where Starhemberg bearers, most of whom are firstborns and their wives, were buried.
Records also indicate that the crypt was refurbished around 1600, and it is possible that the child was buried thereafter.
Considering that he was the only infant buried in the crypt, it is likely that he was the eldest son of one of the Starhamberg counts, an aristocratic family in Austria since the seventeenth century.
Over the years, when he probably died, the researchers believe that the small child is Richard Wilhelm. They suggest that his family deliberately buried him along with his eponymous grandfather, Richard von Starhamberg.
Source: Daily Mail