A horror-sounding story true to the spirit of “Buried Alive” by Edgar Allan Poe. Archaeologists from the University of Oulu, Finland recently discovered an ancient chapel in the Vihti community in southern Finland. The building was built in 1785 and used to be the tomb of the Toll family of noble lineage. Burials were carried out here between 1785 and 1829.
The remains that the scientists found were found to be a 24-year-old woman, one of eight members of the family. The ‘nightmare’ thing is that the woman gave birth to a fetus right in the coffin that was buried.
As was common practice in the early 19th century, her body was embalmed and buried five and a half months after her death.
She was Charlotte Bjornram, married a resident of Vihti named Karl Henrik Tall and died on October 23, 1808 at the age of 24 from some illness. As was common practice in the early 19th century, her body was embalmed and buried five and a half months after her death.
At Charlotte’s ovary, archaeologists found an emergent fetus. By measuring the length of the fetus, the scientists concluded that Charlotte was 6 months pregnant.
Giving birth in a coffin
“Coffin birth” or “birth after death” is extremely rare, but not unique. That’s because during the decomposition process, the gases that accumulate in the abdomen will push the fetus out. And, perhaps, we should be glad that our ancestors knew so little about this process because their lives at that time were already filled with anxieties and superstitions.
Skeleton of an Italian woman of the 7th and 8th centuries.
For example, in 2018, Italian archaeologists unearthed the body of a woman who lived in the 8th or 8th centuries. She suffered from severe pregnancy complications, extremely high blood pressure, and even had to undergo a long treatment that didn’t help. The woman eventually died and along with the fetus was “born” in the grave, as was the case with Charlotte Bjornram at about 6 months old.
Bones are used to determine the age of the fetus.
Another earliest recorded case occurred in 1551, when a pregnant woman was hanged by the Spanish Inquisition, and two dead fetuses ‘falled out’ from her four hours after execute. In this case we are hardly talking about gas accumulation, rather the convulsive response leading to “postpartum”.
The last known incident occurred in 2005 in Hamburg, when a 34-year-old woman who died of a heroin overdose in her apartment days was given “birth after death”. An autopsy revealed that both the fetus and the mother were dead.