A Modern Example of Anthropogenic Mummification from Savoca


  • Dario Piombino-Mascali Anthropology Unit, Department of Biology, University of Pisa
  • Francesco Mallegni Anthropology Unit, Department of Biology, University of Pisa


Embalming , Mummies , Modern Era, Sicily


The Savoca mummies are probably the best known Sicilian collection of mummified human remains after those from Palermo. The 18th century subterranean chamber located in the Chiesa dei Cappuccini  holds several preserved bodies, contained in either wall niches or coffins. A recent detailed inspection allowed the authors to determine that such corpses underwent spontaneous desiccation after being placed in the wall niches situated in the crypt beneath the Cathedral of Savoca. However, one unidentified specimen, belonging to an adult male and tentatively dated to the second half of the 19th century, shows clear signs of an artificial intervention aimed at preventing the decay of the cadaver. In addition, two skulls, located in the columbaria  above the wall niches, show craniotomy, indicating that some of the remains were anthropogenically mummified. The case described seems to suggest that the traditional embalming techniques were still in use in the late Modern Era, despite the development of innovative methods of intra-arterial injection.