Home > Uncategorized > A Lost Sleeping Beauty- New Mummy Formula Found

A Lost Sleeping Beauty- New Mummy Formula Found


   This isn’t quite a recent article (2009) but I always thought it was a very intesesting article, with an attention grabbing picture. This is Rosalia Lombardo, a two-year-old Sicilian girl who died of pneumonia in 1920. “Sleeping Beauty,” as she’s known, appears to be merely dozing beneath the glass front of her coffin in the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, Italy. Her father was so greived over her death that he approached Alfredo Salafia, a noted taxidermist, to preserve her. Scientists in 2009 finally discovered the secret to preserving her body so well. Piombino-Mascali tracked down living relatives of Alfredo Salafia, a Sicilian taxidermist and embalmer who died in 1933, who was suspected of embalming Rosalia. She is considered the world’s best preserved body, and is often referred to as “a sleeping doll”- hence, her nickname “Sleeping Beauty.” X-rays of her organs show that even they are still intact.

   A search of Salafia’s papers revealed a handwritten memoir in which he recorded the chemicals he injected into Rosalia’s body: formalin, zinc salts, alcohol, salicylic acid, and glycerin. Formalin is already widely used by embalmers, as is salicylic acid and glycerin.  The zinc salts are the new product. Salafia was one of the first to use this combination of formulas, and the first to use zinc salts. This practice opened up many new techniques since 2009 for the mummification of bodies. The zinc gave rigidity to her body. However, zinc salts are typically not used in the United States anymore. Why do you guys think this is? The article does not mention anything about the reason why. Perhaps people in these modern days do not want their relatives bodies preserved so rigidly? I think this article is so interesting because it is amazing what a few chemicals can do to preserve human remains so near perfectly.

  1. johnwmanning
    February 17, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Lexicory, I find this post very interesting. I personally find mummifying our dead to be a bit morbid. It seems a bit unnatural to preserve a human being as if it were some sort of show piece. There could be two answers to your question. The first answer could be that we didn’t have Dr. Salafia’s formula until recently. It will be interesting to see if people start using the process more now that the formula is recovered. The second answer could be that people don’t want their family members to be mummies. There is no issue with preserving the body long enough for the family to say goodbye, but after that there really doesn’t seem to be a need in keeping the body preserved. I do find it strange that, while we may have stopped mummifying humans, we still have a love affair with the dead. People still stuff their pets or mount a dead trophy on their wall. I’m curious to know why we still do this.

    As for Rosalia, I’ve had the opportunity to see her in person. At first I didn’t believe that Rosalia was real, because she really does look like a child size doll. I do agree that it is amazing what a few chemicals can do to the human body.

  2. February 21, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    I also find this post very interesting! The image of a body preserved so well for so long takes me back to fifth grade when my class devoted a unit to the mummification practices preformed by the ancient Egyptians. Learning about the techniques practiced by the ancient Egyptians was of slight interest to me then, but as a college student and witnessing a more recent image of a certified “Sleeping Beauty” I am utterly intrigued. The ability to manipulate chemicals in order to almost paralyze the decaying or rotting of a human corpse while promoting its preservation instead portrays how powerful science is. How scientists can preserve the body and literally halt the power of time makes me wonder what the common citizen will think of this article. Will people flock to Italy or other scientists and request to be mummified after they die? Will the mummification process become a common occurrence, or strictly reserved for the rich and famous? Rosalia does resemble a doll, and although I find her beautiful in an eerie manner, I do not believe society should embrace the practice of preserving the body. I believe that in death the body is meant to decay and return to the earth, not be chemically altered to resist the decaying power of time. It is incredible what a few chemicals can do, but does that mean people should apply those powers? This article makes me reflect on death and question if I will have the option to be cremated, buried or preserved in death.

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