The medieval age was not called “the dark ages” for no reason. People seemed to have a lack of knowledge for many disciplines and many people living in that age didn’t dare to study them, because of strict religious laws. Similarly, medieval medicine was undeveloped meaning that it practiced various rituals and methods when curing different ailments. One of these practices included performing brain surgery in a bizarre manner to treat conditions like pre-eclampsia. Researchers attribute these surgery methods to the remains of a woman that they uncovered in a grave in Imola, Bologna, in Italy. Moreover, what makes the tomb horrifying is the coffin birth, as a fetus was found between her legs.
Archaeologists unearthed what was left of the woman back in 2010. However, just recently, they started studying the causes of her death and trying to discover an explanation for them. Moreover, they tried to explain the presence of the fetus that was partially birthed after her burial. It is actually a condition called postmortem fetal extrusion or coffin birth.
While studying the medieval woman, archaeologists learned that the woman had lived between the 7th and 8th centuries CE, as per the report in ScienceAlert. Archaeologists also discovered a hole in her head, which suggests that she received an ancient surgery that is called trepanation. University of California Santa Barbara writes, that in order to remove small pieces of the skull for this surgery, the “doctors” used a drill or a scraping tool. The surgery itself was supposed to relieve different ailments such as head injuries, heartsickness and depression.
Researchers published their findings in the journal World Neurosurgery one month ago attempting to describe the circumstances under which the poor woman died. In the recent paper, they were trying to understand the bizarre placement of the fetus found between the woman’s legs, with its legs apparently still being inside the woman. Researchers believe that this placement is associated with a coffin birth. As per the report from ScienceAlert a team from the University of Ferrara and the University of Bologna in Italy think that the woman was aged between 25 and 35 years old at the time of her death. They also estimated the fetus to be around 38 weeks old. That also indicates that the woman was supposed to give birth to her child soon, if she hadn’t died.
According to the researchers working on a paper, the woman probably decided to undergo trepanation because she was experiencing health problems that were closely related to pregnancy. The surgery resulted in the woman’s death. Still scientists don’t know how the coffin birth works exactly, as theories haven’t been proven.
However OB/GYN Jen Gunter, who is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, provided an explanation of this strange phenomenon to Forbes, describing the way doctors around the world have tried to explain it.
“I suspect that what happens is the pressure from the gas builds up, and the dead fetus is delivered through a rupture—it basically blows a hole through the uterus into the vagina, as the vagina is much thinner than the cervix,” she explained to Forbes.