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Preliminary observations of insect colonization amongst osteological material found in a tomb in Cannaregio (Venice, Italy)

Magni, P.A., Merlo, F. and Boano, R. (2009) Preliminary observations of insect colonization amongst osteological material found in a tomb in Cannaregio (Venice, Italy). In: 7th Meeting European Association for Forensic Entomology (EAFE), 9 - 12 June 2009, Uppsala, Sweden.


During historical and archaeological investigations in the Cannaregio area of Venice, as a consequence of building renovation some ancient tombs were found. The tombs were located on the floor of the monumental cloister of the Jesuit convent (known also as Ex Caserma Manin), behind the church of S. Maria Assunta. When first located three stone tombs were observed (T1, T2, T3), but as work progressed there appears to be more tombs. The archaeological technique was conservative and the excavation was conducted in a humid/wet environment. This was performed in order to identify and study all the tombs and their contents. On the stone tomb of T1 the date 1743 was written and beneath the sepulchral room osteological material was located numerous individuals. Seventy six individuals (MNI = Minimal Numbers of Individuals) were found with a 50% sex ratio. Some bones had toolmarks identified as anatomical cuts which are probably associated with cadavers used in the anatomy school which existed in the late 18th century in the East wing of the convent. Another interesting fact is that this tomb periodically floods with salty water, a consequence of the tidal phenomenon in the Venice lagoon. Preliminary observations of insect material conducted on skulls, sacrums and long bones showed the presence of calliphorids puparia and coleopteran residues mainly in empty splancnocranium parts (nose cavities and eye-sockets), endocranic cavities, acoustic meatus and in the concave articular surfaces of long bones. Moreover, entomological material was found in the organic matrix attached to the bones and in mineral deposits such as calcite, dolomite and quartz (typical lagoon minerals) using X-Ray diffractometry. Work continues on the T1 tomb in order to find the entomological material in all the bones and then this activity will be expanded to the other tombs of Cannaregio and tombs located in the lagoon environment. This is the first recorded work about carrion insects in lagoon environments. This research will allow us insight into human taphonomy associated with this particular environment.

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