Dating to 300 A.D., when the Romans ruled Greece, the partially mummified remains belong to a middle-aged woman. […] Wrapped in bandages and covered with a gold-embroidered purple silk cloth, the woman lay on a wooden pallet.
"Besides the clothes, remnants of soft tissue as well as the individual’s original hairstyle and eyebrows were exceptionally well preserved," Christina Papageorgopoulou of the University of Zurich and colleagues wrote in a paper to be published in the Journal of Archaeological Science shortly.
Why WHY do we not have access to this program here in the U.S.? I just searched Hulu Plus and Netflix for this show, but no dice. I’m tempted to buy the boxed set, but I fear that DVDs from Britain aren’t compatible with American players.
P.S. The case described below is extra-interesting to me because of my previous academic life as a Celticist!
Coffin birth, known in academia by the more accurate term postmortem fetal extrusion, is the expulsion of a nonviable fetus through the vaginal opening of the decomposing body of a pregnant woman as a result of the increasing pressure of intra-abdominal gases. This kind of postmortem delivery…
There was an episode of History Cold Case on in the UK recently (BBC 2) called ‘The Woman and the Three Babies’ that featured an example of coffin birth in an archaeological context. Grim, but fascinating, stuff.
For those unfamiliar with the programme, it features a team of renowned forensic experts from the University of Dundee’s Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification analysing the skeletons of everyday people from across the ages:
“…the team reveals in staggering detail how each person lived his or her life, opening new windows on the history of our forebears by literally fleshing out the person that the skeleton once was.
Much more than just looking at historical remains, the History Cold Case team work on answering three big questions for each skeleton: Who were they? Why did they die? And what does their life story explain that was not known before?
These remarkable stories of everyday people are painstakingly reconstructed, along with faces that haven’t been seen for hundreds of years…” (quote: BBC)
Anywaaaay, the team were called in to investigate the discovery of a female skeleton dating from around 100AD, buried in a ‘bizarre’ position, along with the remains of the three aforementioned babies. They set out to determine whether she was a Celt or a Roman and what her story reveals about attitudes towards pregnancy and childbirth during the Roman occupation of Britain.
It’s an incredibly poignant episode but irritatingly, it is no longer available on iPlayer. ARGH! However….the boxset of the series is released on 3rd October and I would highly recommend purchasing it. The programme does an amazing job of demonstrating the value of studying archaeological bodies and the profession’s important role of advocacy - telling the forgotten stories of those who can no longer speak.
New York Times article from a few years back about the Tarim mummies and the questions they raise:
[…] the Loulan Beauty lies on her back with her shoulder-length hair matted down, her lips pursed in death, her high cheekbones and long nose the most obvious signs that she is not what one thinks of as Chinese.