They find a mummified baby from the 16th century

The Counts of Starhemberg in Austria wanted to preserve the white color of their son’s skin. They never exposed him to the sun. Those were the consequences.

Son of the counts of Starhemberg he never knew the rays of the sun. moreover: any contact with the star was banned for life. His parents had only one intention: to preserve the white and pristine color of their firstborn, by all means. This radical decision meant that, before he was two years old, child they will end up mummified shortly after death.

According to research carried out in Austria, where the aristocratic family comes from, the remains of the baby they are stored in the family crypt. His bones reveal that the cause of his death was vitamin D deficiency, which obtained directly from sunlight. Whether out of ignorance or pure racism, his parents denied him that natural influence.

This decision cost him his life.

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A radical decision

Credit: Nerlich et al., Frontiers, 2022

The baby of the Starhemberg family underwent a natural process of mummification. Due to the airtightness of its crypt, which is entirely made of wood, its soft tissue was preserved practically intact. This is how the researchers in charge of the study discovered «critical information about his life and death“, documents Heritage Daily.

Although he was part of the court, the body was buried without identification. It was only when a radiocarbon test was applied to the remains that scientists from the University of Munich were able to date his death to between the 16th and 17th centuries. That’s how they found out how his short life ended: due to not being exposed to the sun, the child died of severe rickets or scurvy.

“This is just one case,” explains Andreas Nerlich, lead author of the article published today in the Frontiers in medicine“But because we know that early infant mortality rates were generally very high at that time, our observations may have a significant impact on the general reconstruction of the lives of babies, even in the highest social classes.”

According to the remains of the mummified baby, the researchers determined that her bones severely affected by vitamin D deficiency. At just one year old, the boy was already overweight when he died. Although they must have fed him well, the child was completely malnourished.

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Multiple inconveniences

According to the autopsy performed, his ribs were already deformed — as well as other bones. The reason for this, the researchers explain, is likely he did not walk or crawl. And what’s more: his lungs were inflamed. This indicates that he must have been suffering from pneumonia, typical picture of a patient with early rickets.

“The combination of obesity and severe vitamin deficiency can only be explained by a generally ‘good’ nutritional state together with an almost complete lack of exposure to sunlight,” explains Nerlich, the study leader.

As for why his skull is deformed, researchers think it’s because the crypt was too small for the mummified baby. This surprised them, because he was dressed in a long silk coat. These contrasts cast doubt on the child’s identity, the authors explain. Due to the characteristics of the burial, it is most likely “the first-born of the Count of Starhemberg”, they conclude in the press release.

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