Secret Mummy Formula Will Make You Look Young Forever

By Nina Bai | January 27, 2009 5:01 pm

mummyThe secret to everlasting youth may be an injection of formalin, alcohol, glycerin, salicylic acid, and zinc salts. Of course, you’d have to be dead first. Those ingredients, scientists now know, made up the embalming formula that has kept the body of a Sicilian toddler in nearly pristine condition for almost a century.

Known as the “Sleeping Beauty” for her still-life-like appearance, Rosalia Lombardo was only two years old when she died of pneumonia in 1920. Her grieving father hired innovative taxidermist and embalmer Alfredo Salafia to preserve her body, which to this day is on view in a glass-fronted coffin in the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, Italy.

Italian biological anthropologist, Dario Piombino-Mascali of the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman, finally uncovered the secret of Salafia’s expert mummification technique by tracking down his living relatives. It turns out that Salafia had written down the recipe he used to preserve Rosalia in his personal memoir.

Experts say it was the special combination of ingredients that has kept Rosalia looking so fresh, minus some skin discoloration, after all these years. The formalin, which contains formaldehyde, would have killed off any bacteria and the salicylic acid would have prevented fungal growth. The alcohol would have dried out the body, while the glycerin would have prevented it from drying out too much, which explains why Rosaria doesn’t have that Crypt Keeper look.

But the key ingredient was the zinc salts, according to Melissa Johnson Williams, executive director of the American Society of Embalmers: “[Zinc] gave her rigidity…You could take her out of the casket prop her up, and she would stand by herself.”

Related Content:
DISCOVER: The Chemisty of…Mummies
DISCOVER: Making a Modern Mummy

Image: Wikimedia Commons

MORE ABOUT: embalming, mummies
  • Rhonda

    THIS “story” SUCKS it’s probibly not even true! and the girl in the picture is about 3 or 4 years old and not even dead or preserved. That is MY OPINION.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_G3YYK6RKC4HWQSKG4YZLTVV7WA Gixxer_Chixxer

      This story is really old and well known. You need to read more and educate yourself..

  • Justin

    This story is ture, it was published in NAt Geo this last month, The sciclians have been mummafying there dead for centeries.

  • Jessy Cold

    This Story I have been hearing about scence I was a little girl, off of the History & Science Channels. And it is a true fascinating story. And because of it I have desided to become a Mortuary Scientist. The human body fasinates me.

  • benji

    Hi !

    Can you also tell me about a egyptian prince/man who has been dead for almost 2000 years that looks like micheal jackson that surgeon ghassan alusi operated on.

  • Hellfire

    this is true. if you cannot believe, you can visit the cripts in sicily and will see this little girl. that’s why the case is so wonderful, she looks perfectly preserved. )

  • Laurelie

    I think it’s kind of immature and also a little disrespecting to say right away this story “sucks”… or is fake before doing any research or having further informations about the story behind this little child. This kind of rude expression has nothing to do with a constructive opinion…

    The catacombs of Palermo contain about 8000 mummies, the place is still open to visit. Rosalia Lombardo (died 1920 at age two ) was the very last to be interred there. When she died of Pneumonia her father, General Mario Lombardo, could not take the fact to never see his little child again – so he and his wife consulted a friend of the family, Professor Alfredo Salafia who was actually known for preserving animals back then. Salafia promised to help the grieving family.

    Today her body is still remarkably intact, preserved with a procedure that was lost for decades but was recently rediscovered. The embaling procedure consisted of formalin to kill bacteria, alcohol to dy the body, glycerin to keep her from overdrying, salicylic acid to kill fungi and the most important ingredient, zinc salts to give her body rigidity. Professional scientists all over the world proved that this is the real body of General Lombardo’s doughter.

  • http://google elirner

    Laurelie!

    Molti bene! Molti grazie per complementi di Rosalia e il vita e morta! Rhonda e disgrazia e non credo. Qualto e persona stupida!

    Certo, Laurelie e Rosalita dice molti grazie per su amore.

  • Guest

    I find it extremely disrespectful to put a human, dead or alive, on display like a puppet. Sure it’s fascinating and all, but what happened to letting the dead rest in peace?

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Discoblog

Quirky, funny, and surprising science news from the edge of the known universe.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »