French Researchers Find Evidence on Cardiovascular Disease in Mummified Heart

"heart-shaped urn"

The medieval heart urns were found in the cemetery of a French convent.

Modern medicine has come a long way, no doubt about it, but some things never change no matter how much we try. A team of French researchers found evidence on cardiovascular disease in mummified hearts. The fossils were unearthed during a recent excavation in Rennes, France.

Anthropologists in France have come across an ancient treasure: they have discovered 400-year-old fossilized hearts in a medieval convent in the city of Rennes France. The area has been excavated and scientists eventually retrieved five urns, each containing a heart.

The fossils have been analyzed with the help of MRI and CT scans, whereas in some cases, scientists had to re-hydrate the hearts to better study their structure. Surprisingly, they have discovered that heart diseases existed since the 16th and the 17th Century.

Medical analyses have revealed that almost all five hearts had plaque lining between arteries. This affection, together with atherosclerosis was found in the case of three hearts, whereas only one of them was healthy. The fifth mummified organ was too poorly preserved for scientists to get relevant information on its tissues.

Nevertheless, medical experts in France were pleased with the results of their research. The organs had an overall good condition, so it has been very easy for them to study the tissue and establish their age. It has been estimated that these hearts are approximately 400 years old and that they belonged to people from the wealthier social strata.

The much degraded fossil belonged to a woman, but neither her health condition, nor her identity have been determined because the heart was almost destroyed. The study does not only shed light on the physical affections that people used to suffer from 4 centuries ago, but it also gives us insight into the medieval burial practices.

According to scientists, one of the hearts in the urns belonged to Toussaint Perrien, a nobleman and a Knight of Brefeillac. He died in the year 1649 and according to historical sources, his heart was later on moved in his wife’s tomb. Historians explain that such practices were very common among French noblemen and their goal was to show that lovers cannot be separated not even by death.

Excavations works in Rennes, France lasted from 2011 until 2013 and the findings of the study were presented at the last meeting of the North American Radiological Society in Chicago.

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