Paleoandrology and Prostatic Hyperplasia in Italian Mummies (XV-XIX century).


  • Gino Fornaciari Department of Oncology, Transplants and Advanced Technologies in Medicine, Section of Paleopathology, University of Pisa, I.
  • Rosalba Ciranni Department of Oncology, Transplants and Advanced Technologies in Medicine, Section of Paleopathology, University of Pisa, I.
  • Luca Ventura Department of Pathology , San Salvatore, Hospital, L'Aquila , I


Paleonthology , Mummies , Histology , Prostate nodular hyperplasia


Prostatic hyperplasia, a very common condition today, was well known in the past as cause for bladder distension. The difficulty to identify, at autopsy of natural or artificial mummies, even a normal-sized prostate is probably the result of putrefaction processes and its usually dramatic size reduction as well. We report two ancient cases of prostatic hyperplasia recently observed in natural mummies from Italy. The first case regards Pandolfo III Malatesta (1370-1427), a leading figure of the Italian Renaissance. He was a valiant soldier and horseman with a very active life style. The tomb, containing his naturally mummified body, has recently been discovered in Fano (Marche, Central Italy). After careful X-ray and videographic examination, the autopsy showed good preservation of the skeletal muscles, cartilage, internal and external organs, included prostate gland and penis. Macroscopic examination revealed a staghorn calculus (calcium urate) of the left kidney and a severe enlargement of the prostate, with calcifications detectable by X-ray and large nodules protruding in the lumen of an ectatic urethra. Histology shows fibrous brands of connective and muscular tissue surrounding circular and oblong lacunae, with no preservation of epithelial structures. The macroscopic and histological picture allowed us to diagnose prostatic nodular hyperplasia. The second case (XIX century) concerns the natural mummy of an anonymous 50-60 years old man, found in ancient friary near L'Aquila (central Italy), which underwent computed tomography and a complete autopsy. Pelvic CT scans showed distended urinary bladder and a ring of dense tissue at the site of the prostate. At autopsy the bladder measured 7 x 6 x 5 cm and the prostate was 4 x 5 x 3 cm; prostatic urethra had a diameter of x 2 cm. Histology revealed dense fibrous tissue containing muscular fibers and roundish cavities of variable size, filled with eosinophil, PAS-positive material. Concretions were also present in some of these spaces. Strong immunohistochemical reactivy for PSA was observed in this material. The existence of glandular structures containing eosinophil, PAS-positive material, immunoreactive for PSA, confirmed the prostatic nature of the specimen, already suspected after CT scan and gross examination. The presence itself of the prostate, its histological picture, the preserved and distended urinary bladder, in addition to the age of the subject, supported the diagnosis of prostatic hyperplasia.