Dick Hanscom of Alaska forwarded this Daily Mail article about a body found buried clutching a copper coin. Thanks. -Editor
The unusual remains of a baby buried 150 years ago have shed new light on the bizarre effects of copper on a decomposing body.
While the remains were almost entirely skeletonized, the body contained a single mummified hand.
Further analysis revealed the child was buried clutching a copper coin, which protected some body parts from decay. Flesh and discoloration could be seen in the areas closest to the copper; the dried up, flesh-covered
forearm was stained green down to the bone, as were some of the vertebrae, a hip bone, and the leg bones.
The copper levels seen in the remains were several hundred times higher than average, according to the researchers.
‘While copper is essential for the functioning of some human enzymes, it is also known to have antimicrobial character and its compounds have been used as fungicides and bactericides for many years,’ the researchers
Still, the process of ‘copper-driven quasi-natural mummification’ has not been documented, and this may be the first reported case.
With no coin present, though, the strange mummification remained a mystery for roughly a decade – until one day, the researcher discovered more storage boxes from the site, contained at a nearby museum, according to NY
Inside these boxes, Dr. Balázs found a corroded copper coin and a small ceramic pot, in which the tiny body was likely buried.
The analysis suggests the body was ‘surrounded by a moist microenvironment in the pot,’ the authors write, ‘where gradual diffusion of soluble copper originating from the coin was facilitated for a longer period of time,
and this relatively isolated setting did not allow complete decay of the little dead body.’
The coin dates back to a period from 1858 to 1862, indicating that the child was buried long after the Medieval remains found at the same site.
While it wasn’t customary for Christians of that era to bury the dead with coins, the child likely died before baptism, according to NY Times, and was given the token to assist the journey to the afterlife.
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Wayne Homren, Editor
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