According to some Monday reports, a team of Italian archaeologists has uncovered the skeletal remains of a woman who was buried while pregnant. The team found the medieval grave near Bologna, Italy, and noticed that the skeleton had a 38-week-old fetus between her legs. According to experts, the woman probably gave birth after being buried in a phenomenon known as “coffin birth”. It seems that the child’s legs didn’t even make it out of the pelvic cavity, but the head and the torso did. This means that the baby was only partially delivered.
The researchers also explained that the mother’s skeleton exhibited a 5-milimeter hole in the skull along with a forehead cut. She was probably the victim of a primitive form of skull surgery. Coffin birth usually happens a few days after the mother has deceased because of the gas pressure inside the dead body. The fetus therefore gets released from the vaginal canal. However, in this medieval woman’s case, the baby was already dead when she was buried. It’s worth noting that this case was first uncovered back in 2010, when the archaeologists first found the remains.
A strange case of “coffin birth”
Archaeologists Have Discovered a Ghastly ‘Coffin Birth’ in a Medieval Grave https://t.co/kc1yYF92wy
— ScienceAlert (@ScienceAlert) March 26, 2018
It’s interesting that the burial of the woman seemed intentional, so she probably died during the procedure. The results of a further investigation were recently published in the journal World Neurosurgery. It seems that the woman was between 25 and 35 years old when she died. Given the position of the baby and the fact that the head and torso were already out, it means that the fetus was already in the cephalic position, ready for birth.
As for the hole in her skull, it was probably the result of a procedure called trepanation. It was usually the treatment for eclampsia, a hypertensive pregnancy disorder. The details fit in perfectly with the woman so, this was probably the reason she died about a week after the surgery.
Image source: wikimedia