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Health

Medieval coffin birth: A modern medical mystery

Saturday 07/April/2018 - 01:55 PM
Sada El Balad
In 2010، archeological diggings in Imola، Italy، yielded a sad yet intriguing find: the skeleton of a medieval woman with a hole in her skull and the mysterious the remains of a fetus. Scientists concluded that this was a coffin birth، and that the hole was caused by an ancient procedure called trepanation.
An unusual postmortem phenomenon recorded throughout history is the inaccurately dubbed "coffin birth."

I say the word "inaccurate" because it suggests that the body of a deceased pregnant person can give birth to the fetus that it carries.

However، that's not the case at all. After death، the cervix cannot dilate to allow the fetus to pass through. So what happens?

Well، as mortician and author Caitlin Doughty explains، the scientific name of this phenomenon is actually "postmortem fetal extrusion" and "can happen 48–72 hours after the death of a pregnant woman."

"As the gas in her abdomen builds up due to decomposition، pressure rises to the point that it presses on the uterus so intensely that the unborn fetus is expelled or partly expelled from the mother's body،" she says.

In a study now published in the journal World Neurosurgery، researchers from the Universities of Bologna and Ferrara، both in Italy، analyzed the case of one such coffin birth uncovered by archaeologists a few years ago.Medics Today said.

This case — dated to the Lombard period (7th–8th century Italy) — concerned the skeleton of an adult woman، probably aged 25–35، and that of her unborn child، "found [...] between the pelvis and the lower limbs of the adult."

The position of the fetus suggested to the study authors — who are Alba Pasini، Vanessa Samantha Manzon، Xabier Gonzalez-Muro، and Emanuela Gualdi-Russo — that it had been expelled from the body after the mother's death، likely in the manner described above.

The researchers also noted that، looking at the size of the fetus's femur، it may have been around 38 weeks into the mother's pregnancy when she died.

What truly intrigued the scientists was that the mother's remains also held another peculiarity: her skull exhibited a mysterious hole.

A precursor to modern neurosurgery
Based on the appearance of the hole in the woman's skull، the researchers concluded that it had been created with "a circular-section metal instrument،" which is consistent with the ancient procedure of trepanation.

This skull-drilling practice، which is over 5،000 years old in Europe and even older elsewhere in the world، has baffled archeologists and anthropologists for a long time.

Gene study solves mystery of 'alien' skeleton

ُEdited by rehab sayed

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