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The Mummy and I: How to preserve a friendship

Magni, P.A., Testi, R., Abrate, M. and Dadour, I. (2014) The Mummy and I: How to preserve a friendship. In: 11th Meeting European Association for Forensic Entomology (EAFE), 9 - 11 April 2014, Lille, France.


On October 2013, in a small city in the North of Italy an old woman (R.) died after a long illness. The woman was known to have a long friendship with her daughter-in-law’s mother (G.), insomuch as the women lived together. Furthermore, G. was known to be a sage, able to predict the future and to bless people. Even though people did not see her for many years, they continued to bring offerings to obtain her blessings. When R. died, G. unexpectedly failed to attend the funeral of her best friend. Worried about the well-being of G. her relatives together with law enforcement forcibly entered into her apartment. The corpse of G. was found in a room of the apartment, seated on an armchair, completely mummified and covered with a linen sheet. Further investigations confirmed that balms had been used to preserve the corpse and to protect it from the colonization of insects. Despite this, on the mummified corpse Dermestes frischii Kugelann (Coleoptera: Dermestidae) larva exuviae, frass and artifacts were found. Dermestid beetles are unpredictable colonisers as they have been reported arriving at a corpse between 24h to 3-6 months after death, depending on the environmental situation. Dermestid frass has been found between 1 month and 10 years after death. In the present case the date the death of G. was estimated to be between 16 and 18 years before discovery.

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