Oh my god, this is so fucking cool.
Goo of Death Helps Solve Mystery of Headless Corpse…
A headless human corpse floating in a bay of Lake Brienz in Switzerland — first thought to be a dead sheep as its thigh bones and an upper arm bone protruding from its torso were encased in a cement-like cocoon — has divulged its secrets.
Another great article from Der Spiegel Online about the peculiarities of burial in Germany. Where Islam and grave wax meet!
Great article on Der Spiegel Online about the grave wax crisis in many German cemeteries.
Soil conditions there apparently inhibit decomposition and encourage saponification. I’ve posted about saponification before; it’s the process where fat in the human body is converted (usually by cold and moist burial conditions) into a soapy substance called adipocere, or grave wax. Germany recycles burial plots after 15- to 25-year cycles, so when bodies don’t turn to soil as they should, you’ve got a problem.
New research is revealing new facts about the Soap Lady at Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum. You may remember saponification from my Soapman post; this is the same phenomenon. This poor girl is a bit more ghastly-looking than Soapman, but just as interesting.
It was previously thought that she was a victim of the 1792 Yellow Fever epidemic. Then, x-rays taken in the 1980s showed pins and buttons on her clothing that suggested she hadn’t died until the 1830s or later. (These particular pins and buttons weren’t manufactured in the U.S. until then.)
Now, even newer x-rays are showing that she was significantly younger at the time of her death (in her 20s) than first thought (40-ish).
Image source: John Donges on Flickr.
Soapman’s ready for his close-up.
Source: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History on Flickr.
Meet Soapman. He’s an 18th-century Philadelphian dressed in knee-high stockings, and he lives at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. And he’s made of soap.
He was discovered accidentally in 1875 during digging for a construction project. From Discovery News:
Unlike other mummies which are kept dry to ensure preservation, this mummy was exposed to water, which seeped into the casket and turned the fats in his body to soap. […] Saponification, a chemical reaction used to create soap for millennia, literally means “soap making” in Latin. When water reacts with the fats and oils, a reaction called hydrolysis, the result is glycerol and soap.
This process is common when bodies have been exposed to water. The end result is called adipocere, or grave wax.
Some humans turn in to soap after they die.
In a process known as saponification, some human bodies turn partly or completely in to soap (adipocere – also known as grave wax). The fatty tissue of the body along with other liquids from putrefaction slowly form into lumps of adipocere – this happens to both embalmed and non-embalmed bodies. It is especially common in people with large fat deposits in their body prior to death. The famous Mutter Museum has an exhibit of “The Soap Lady” who is entirely composed of grave wax (pictured above). On occasion, these deposits can be seen leaking from closed tombs.
Skeletons, mummies, bog bodies, exhumations. The dead, and what happens to them.
Meet This Dead Person
Feats of Preservation
Skulls and Skeletons
Ossuaries and Bone Architecture
Incorruptibles and Saintly Relics
When Famous People Die
When Dead People Turn to Soap
Skeletons in Clothes
Dead People Sitting, Standing, or
Made to Look Alive
Death in Art
Accidents and Disasters
Morgues, Funeral Homes, and the
Business of Death
Mourning Customs and Imagery
Handling, Disposing of, and Storing
Posthumous Travels and
Cemeteries and Graveyard Scenes
Personal Details and Opinions
Just Plain Weird or Uncategorizable