In L'Aquila, Central Italy, an earthquake of 6.3 magnitude partially collapsed the St John the Evangelist church in the village of Casentino. Underground rooms were exposed and were found to have mummified bodies held there. A mummified foetus was found amongst them and after examination was said to be from the year 1840. Using a radiograph researchers found that the skeleton was not fully connected and they were unable to determine the sex of the foetus. However they were able determine that the foetus was 29 weeks old and therefore should still have been inside the womb.

The mummy had dissected areas of skull and was disconnected from its spine as well as having its arms removed from its body. They deduced that the reason for these features was that the foetus had undergone embryotomy which happens before it is removed from the womb. Embryotomy is an ancient medical practice that has been used in Rome and Alexandria in early centuries. It was used when the foetus was assumed to be dead and the mother's life was in danger due to complications with delivery. It is also thought to be a very extreme form of abortion in medieval ages.


Blaszczak-Boxe, A. (2014). Mummified Fetus Reveals Ancient Surgical Procedure. Live Science. Retrieved from


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