Scientists are using radiology to determine what the specimens once ate, the medicine they took—and how they died.
Arrayed in crypts and churches, with leering skulls and parchment skin, the desiccated dead of Sicily have long kept mute vigil.
But now, centuries later, these creepy cadavers have plenty to say.
Five years into the Sicily Mummy Project, six macabre collections are offering scientists a fresh look at life and death on the Mediterranean island from the late 16th century to the mid-20th.
Led by anthropologist Dario Piombino-Mascali of the Department of Cultural Heritage and Sicilian Identity in Palermo (map), the ongoing investigation is revealing how religious men and their wealthy supporters ate, interacted, dealt with disease, and disposed of their dead.