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Experts hope to decipher mystery of 163 mummified children remains after two decades

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One of Italy’s most sad “child chapel,” located in northern Sicily, holds the bodies of children believed to have died between 1787 and 1880. It is unknown who the children were or how they died – but the mystery may finally be solved soon.

After 200 years, scientists are hopeful that they will be able to finally solve the riddle of 163 mummified child remains.

A tragic “child chapel” in northern Sicily houses the bodies of children said to have died between 1787 and 1880, but it is unknown who they were or how they died.

Many appear to be sleeping.

Now, a team of experts from the United Kingdom is attempting to throw light on their whereabouts.

The skeletons and mummified bodies of more than 1,000 adults can be found in the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo.

A two-year investigation has begun, with 41 bodies being X-rayed in the hopes of learning how they died.

In an interview with The Guardian, Dr. Kirsty Squires of Staffordshire University said that fieldwork would begin as soon as this month.

Some of the children have been “superbly preserved,” according to Dr. Dario Piombino-Mascali, who is working on the project. He describes them as looking like “tiny little dolls.”

He said: “Some really look like sleeping children.

“They are darkened by the time but some of them have got even fake eyes so they seem to be looking at you.”

Dr. Piombino-Mascali said it was “upsetting” to deal with children in anthropology, adding: “Of course you want to do something to preserve them and to make sure their stories are told and give a sense that they are children.”

An X-ray unit will be brought in and hundreds of photographs of the children will be taken by experts.

It is believed that the results will provide more information about the children’s health and identity, as well as an explanation for why they were preserved in mummified form.

Dr. Squires previously said: “The Capuchin Catacombs comprise one of the most important collections of mummies in the world.

“However, there is very little documentary evidence about the children who were granted mummification and the death records from the period contain limited information. Our study will rectify this knowledge gap.

“Given that this funerary rite was mainly reserved for adults, we want to understand why the children were mummified.

“We have a fairly good idea that they were from the upper ranks of society, but we don’t know much more about juvenile health, development, or identity during this period.

“This project will provide essential data to determine which children were afforded mummification and to put this into a broader context.”

Image Credit: Guradian

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