Researchers investigating a 14th century burial ground have identified a rare case of "coffin birth" - a gruesome phenomenon in which a deceased pregnant woman's fetus is expelled within the grave.
The remains of a mother and fetus were buried alongside those of two other children in the early days of the Black Death in Italy, however researchers cannot say for certain that they died of the plague
[Credit: Fabrizio Benente (Universita di Genova – DAFIST)]
The event, which has seldom been reported in archaeology, is known as postmortem fetal extrusion. It results from a build-up of gas pressure within the decomposing body.
"In this case, we have a partial expulsion of a 38- to 40-week-old fetus, which was found to be complete and to lie within the birth canal," Deneb Cesana, at the University of Genova, told Seeker.
The remains of the woman and her unborn baby were originally uncovered in 2006, interred with two other young individuals that scientists say were aged 12 and three years old. Only recently has the discovery been fully investigated.
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