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Unraveling the Enigma: Unearthing 18th-Century Family Remains Encased in a Container

Found in crates inside a church in the Hungarian town of Vác, and analyzed in 2015, the 200-year-old bones could represent a milestone in science.

An old Dominican church was filled with researchers in 1994 in the Hungarian city of Vác. Upon opening mysterious crates inside the sacred site, experts were shocked to find very well-preserved remains of 265 individuals.

Not ordinary bones, but surprising mummies. What’s more, they were afflicted with a disease that, for the ᴅᴇᴀᴅ, used to be 𝚚uite mysterious.

Enigmatic death

The so-called “TB bacillus” was only discovered by researcher Robert Koch in 1882. The disease is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis and mainly affects the lungs, causing prolonged coughing, catarrh and fever. However, the people of the 18th century did not know its cause.

A third of the individuals thus died from the disease, without knowing the exact reason. It turns out that 90% of the mummies were affected by tuberculosis, even if the patients didn’t know when they got sick.

And, as the remains were in an excellent state of conservation, this allowed scientists to make a very important discovery for science: it will be possible to better understand the evolution of the disease over the centuries.

Map showing the discovery region and the church that houses the mummies

A sick family

Tuberculosis affected an entire family in the 18th century, which was discovered among the mummies in the boxes. They were the Hausmanns: there was the corpse of their eldest sister, Terézia Hausmann, who died at the age of 28, on December 27, 1797; and there was also the mother’s mummy, name unknown; and the younger sister Barbara Hausmann, whom Terézia took care of.