International Journal of Legal Medicine

, Volume 132, Issue 5, pp 1405–1413 | Cite as

Study of a seventeenth-century French artificial mummy: autopsical, native, and contrast-injected CT investigations

  • Rozenn Colleter
  • Fabrice Dedouit
  • Sylvie Duchesne
  • Patrice Gérard
  • Laurent Dercle
  • Pierre Poilpré
  • Véronique Gendrot
  • Hervé Rousseau
  • Éric Crubézy
  • Norbert Telmon
  • Fatima-Zohra MokraneEmail author
Case Report



A lead coffin was fortuitously discovered in a church called “Eglise des Toussaints” in Rennes (French Brittany). A collaborative taskforce investigated this extraordinary discovery. A multi-disciplinary team of experts from the National Institute for Preventive Archeological Research (INRAP) and Rangueil University Hospital of Toulouse was created, including anthropologists, archeologists, forensic pathologists, radiologists, and pathologists. The inscription on the lead coffin specified that the body belonged to “Messer Louys de Bruslon, Lord of Plessis,” a nobleman who died on November 1, 1661. Multiple holes were visible in the lead coffin, and deterioration threatened the mummy. We opened the lead coffin and discovered an excellently preserved mummy, except for mostly skeletonized upper and lower limbs. The mummy was conserved in several layers of shrouds. Vegetal embalming material covered the head and filled the face, the thorax, and the abdomen. The embalmers had removed all thoracic and abdominal organs and conserved some pelvic organs (e.g., the bladder).


Multi-slice computed tomography (MSCT) scanner evaluated the mummy, at each step of our analysis. The excellent preservation of abdominal vascular axes led us to perform a CT angiography using Angiofil®, an oily contrast agent developed for postmortem imaging, before an autopsy.


Sub-diaphragmatic arteries, including the abdominal aorta and iliac arteries, were excellently preserved. The vascular contrast agent filled all arteries. The native CT, CT angiography, and autopsy did not detect any vascular lesion.


Our study, based on rare archeological material, allowed a complete examination of an excellently preserved seventeenth-century mummy, using MSCT, angiography, and an autopsy. We did not detect any arterial lesion and proposed a comprehensive description of the embalmment process.


Mummy Postmortem Multi-slice computed tomography Angiography Embalming Modern era Brittany 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rozenn Colleter
    • 1
    • 2
  • Fabrice Dedouit
    • 2
    • 3
  • Sylvie Duchesne
    • 1
    • 2
  • Patrice Gérard
    • 2
  • Laurent Dercle
    • 4
    • 5
  • Pierre Poilpré
    • 1
  • Véronique Gendrot
    • 6
    • 7
  • Hervé Rousseau
    • 8
  • Éric Crubézy
    • 2
  • Norbert Telmon
    • 2
    • 9
  • Fatima-Zohra Mokrane
    • 2
    • 5
    • 8
    Email author
  1. 1.INRAP National Institute of Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP, France)Cesson-SévignéFrance
  2. 2.AMIS Laboratory: University of Toulouse, French National Center for Scientific Research, UMR 5288ToulouseFrance
  3. 3.Unit of Forensic and Anthropological ImagingCentre Universitaire Romand de Médecine Légale (CURML)Lausanne 25Switzerland
  4. 4.Gustave Roussy InstituteUniversité Paris-SaclayVillejuifFrance
  5. 5.New York Presbyterian HospitalColumbia UniversityNew York CityUSA
  6. 6.French Regional Archaeological ServiceRennesFrance
  7. 7.French National Center for Scientific Research, UMR 6566RennesFrance
  8. 8.Radiology DepartmentRangueil University HospitalToulouseFrance
  9. 9.Forensic DepartmentRangueil University HospitalToulouseFrance

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