It is the crypt of one of the oldest aristocratic families in Austria. There is a secret in it. The mummy of a child. The mummy that died for lack of light.
The crypt is from the mid-sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The mummy’s features are faded but detailed. Her body is still wrapped in an elaborate silk robe. It was determined that her short existence was unhealthy. There are malformations in the ribs. These are classic signs of malnutrition and rickets.
The great deficiency of vitamin D (very little of which is absorbed in food) gave another clue. It depends on ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The child was severely malnourished due to lack of sunlight. This chemical is absolutely crucial for bone formation during infancy. That would explain the bone abnormalities. It also allows the body to better absorb calcium and phosphorus throughout life.
The body presented, despite this, mild obesity. “There is obesity and a severe vitamin deficiency. It can only be explained by one thing. An almost total lack of exposure to sunlight,” explained pathologist Andreas Nerlich. He works with the University of Munich.
It is an interesting insight into the living conditions of the babies of the nobility in the 16th and 17th centuries. Aristocrats used to avoid the sun to keep their skin porcelain white. It was a sign of high rank in much of European society. That would explain the mummy that died from lack of light.
He was known to have been well fed and cared for. His high level of body fat is what kept his remains so well preserved. The corpse was buried in a silk burial coat. And he was the only child in the family crypt. Researchers suspect he was a first-born son. Unfortunately, his coffin bore no inscription.
“This is just one case. Early infant mortality rates were very high at that time. Our observations may have a considerable impact on the general reconstruction of the lives of these children. Even in the higher social classes,” concluded Nerlich.