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Catacombs & Tombs

Directory Top > Research > Mummies > Catacombs(5)

Catacombs are ancient, human-made subterranean passageways for burial or protection. Any chamber used as a burial place can be described as a catacomb, although the word is most commonly associated with the Roman empire. Many are under cities and have been popularised by stories of their use as war refuges, smugglers' hideouts, or meeting places for cults.

Catacombs although most notable for the underground passage ways and cemeteries are also the home of many decorations. There are thousands of decorations in the centuries old catacombs of Rome, catacombs of Paris, and other known and unknown catacombs, some of which include inscriptions, paintings and statues among other things such as ornaments which were placed in the graves over the years. Most of these decorations were used to identify, immortalize, and to show respect to the dead.

Tombs of Sacred Animals at Saqqara   [New Window]

"The tombs which hold the Ibis run to many, many chambers - the numbers of birds found and still to be excavated has been estimated to run into many millions. Although the tombs in which these mummified birds reside has been known to explorers since the 18th Century it was not until 1966 that the catacomb of these birds was entered properly."

Photographs by Philippe Plailly

''...the first tomb, which, like the others, was filled with the mummies of men, women, and children. All of them appeared to be in good condition, mummified in a Roman-Egyptian manner known from sites such as Hawara in the Fayum, 150 miles to the northeast. The mummies still smelled of the resin used to embalm them millennia ago. In one corner, I saw a touching scene--a woman lying beside her husband, her head turned affectionately toward him. My eyes were then drawn to the mummy of another woman, the sun glinting off her gilded mask. About five feet in height, she had a beautiful gilded plaster crown with four decorative rows of red curls ending in spirals that framed her forehead and extended behind her ears. While the hairstyle was clearly Roman, reminiscent of terra-cotta statues of the period, the iconography of her mask, painted with deities that protected the deceased and eased her passage into the afterlife, was pure Egyptian. Behind the ears a figure of Isis appeared on one side, her sister Nephthys on the other, the two goddesses shielding the deceased with their wings..."

Capuchin Catacombs - by Anthony Parente   [New Window]

"Located in the city of Palermo on the Italian island of Sicily is without a doubt one of the most interesting, intriguing and gruesome tourist spots in the world. This place, which is sometimes referred to as the Museum of Death, contains some 8000 mummified bodies that date back to the 16th century. These bodies line the walls of the Catacombs, which is located directly underneath the Capuchin Convent."

"Due to a law by the Italian government in 1881 the Catacombs were no longer permitted to continue this process of mummification. Even though law prohibited the Convent from adding mummies to the Catacombs it wasn't until 1920 that the last body would be officially interred in the Catacomb. With special permission from the Italian government the body of a 2-year-old child named Rosalia Lombardo [] was added. What amazed me the most about the addition of Rosalia is how well preserved her body is. If you take one look you would not guess that she died almost 100 years ago. The photo looks more like the picture of a child's doll. The doctor responsible for the embalming process on Rosalia died before anyone could learn of his methods."

National Geographic - Inca Mummies   [New Window]

"Buried beneath a Peruvian shantytown, hundreds of Inca mummies were nearly lost to bulldozers and development. Now, as researchers unwrap the mummies from their bundles--layer by layer, artifact by artifact--a rare picture of an ancient world unfolds."

Mummies in the May 2002 Issue Online-only photos, desktop wallpaper, photographers field notes, map, and more. - Scary Places Part 6: Capuchin's Catacombs   [New Window]

One of the most gruesome, gory tourist attractions in the world is the Capuchin's Catacombs in Palermo, Italy. There are about 8000 dead bodies lined up on the wall, sitting down, lying in coffins and on shelves. It all began in 1599 when local priests mummified a monk so they could pray to him after death. Locals wanted to remember their loved ones the same way, and soon there were hundreds of corpses.