Finnish archaeologists have discovered in a medieval crypt the remains of a woman who "gave birth" after death. Scientists believe that this is a rare but not unique case that can occur to pregnant women after death.
Finnish archaeologists investigated the family tomb in the south of the country and discovered the remains of a young noble woman who “gave birth” after her death. According to scientists, the aristocrat, who was at the beginning of the third trimester of pregnancy, died at the beginning of the 19th century from inflammation, and there was no childbirth as such. The researchers speculate that the fetus was pushed out of the body by gases that formed in the abdominal cavity after death.
A team of archaeologists from the University of Oulu (Finland) investigated a family tomb in Vihti municipality in the south of the country. In the burial vault, scientists discovered the remains of a young woman and a fetus, which was partially pushed out of the body as a result of the so-called "posthumous birth". This is reported in The International Journal of Osteoarcheology.
In the fall of 2020, archaeologists led by Tiina Väre began work on the investigation of the family crypt under the Kurla manor chapel in southern Finland. It was a burial chamber 4x4 meters in size, at the bottom of which there were eight coffins and, possibly, fragments of the ninth. As researchers have established from archival sources, all burials date back to the late 18th - early 19th centuries: the chapel was built in 1785, family members were buried in 1785-1829.
During the opening of the tombs, the remains of three men and five women of different ages were found. Five coffins contained significantly mummified remains, three contained skeletons with remnants of soft tissue or skin. Some, but not all, of the deceased have been identified, according to the study.
Particular attention of scientists was attracted by the remains of a 24-year-old pregnant woman Charlotte Bjornram, who had a fetus in her birth canal, partially squeezed out of her body.
According to church books, she was married to Karl Henrik Toll, a member of the family that owned the Kurla estate. According to the surviving records, the young woman suffered from some kind of inflammatory process, which on October 23, 1808, was fatal. Approximately 5, 5 months after the death of the woman's ashes were buried in the crypt, the researchers note.
To the surprise of archaeologists, in the pelvic area of the deceased, they saw a skull belonging to an unborn baby. From the size of the remains of the fetal skeleton, it was possible to establish that Charlotte Bjornram died while at the beginning of the third trimester of pregnancy - according to the length of the bones, the approximate gestation period was from 30 to 32 weeks. Archaeologists interpreted the find as a case of "posthumous birth" - a partial squeezing out of the fetus after death.
Among others, scientists also considered the version according to which complications during childbirth became the cause of the death of a woman and her child. However, according to the condition and age of the fetus, the researchers believe it is most likely that there was no birth at all. The mother's death occurred for unknown reasons during pregnancy, and the fetus was pushed out of the body by gases caused by the decomposition of the corpse.
“Posthumous extrusion of the fetus is very rare. There are known cases described in modern literature and in archaeological research. This phenomenon usually occurs within a few days after death as a result of putrefaction and gas formation in the abdominal cavity,”the scientists noted in their study.
Earlier, archaeologists encountered the phenomenon of "posthumous birth" during excavations of a burial of the 7th-8th centuries. n. NS. in the Italian province of Bologna. The skeleton of a woman who "gave birth" after death was also found there. The remains of a woman were found in the city of Imola. The woman died in the 7th-8th century A.D. BC, she was 25-35 years old.The fetus was at 38 weeks of development. His head and body were between the woman's thighs, and his legs were in the pelvic region, as happens during childbirth.