Multidetector CT investigation of the mummy of Rosalia Lombardo (1918-1920)

Ann Anat. 2013 Oct;195(5):401-8. doi: 10.1016/j.aanat.2013.03.009. Epub 2013 May 7.


Whole-body multidetector computed tomography (CT) was performed on the mummified corpse of two-year-old Rosalia Lombardo, an anthropogenic mummy displayed in the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, Sicily, Italy. Rosalia Lombardo reportedly died of bronchopneumonia in 1920 and was preserved by the embalmer and taxidermist Alfredo Salafia with a formaldehyde-based fluid. Rosalia Lombardo's body is still exhibited in the Capuchin Catacombs inside the original glass-topped coffin in which she was placed. Only her head is visible: the rest of her body is covered by a sheet. CT images of Rosalia's body within her coffin were of reduced quality because of distinct metal artifacts caused by the coffin itself. Nevertheless, a detailed radiological analysis was possible for most of the body. Analysis of the data from the CT examination revealed indicators for the historically-reported endovasal and intracavity treatment. Rosalia's entire body was preserved in a remarkable state. The exceptional preservation of her internal organs made it possible to consider a radiological diagnosis of pneumonia. For this study, CT was determined to be the ultimate method for investigation, since Rosalia's body had to be kept untouched in her sealed coffin for conservation purposes. The CT examination offered new insights into the current preservation status of the body, and the superior contrast of CT allowed detailed assessment of different tissues. Post-processing methods provided reconstructions on any desired plane, as well as three-dimensional reconstruction, for the best possible visualization and interpretation of the body.

Keywords: Computed tomography; Embalming; History; Mummy; Paleopathology; Pneumonia; Radiology.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Artifacts
  • Child, Preschool
  • Embalming
  • Female
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Lung / pathology
  • Metals
  • Mummies / diagnostic imaging*
  • Mummies / history*
  • Organ Preservation
  • Pneumonia / pathology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*


  • Metals