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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 February 2008, 16:45 GMT
Bug hunt finds Brazil 'mummies'
Map of Brazil
Workers looking for termites in a Brazilian monastery have uncovered two "mummies" thought to be 200 years old.

The bodies, believed to be two nuns of a Spanish order, were found at the Roman Catholic Mosteiro da Luz - or Monastery of Light - in Sao Paulo.

Excavations have revealed that the skin of one of the bodies is well preserved, while the other is mainly skeleton, riddled with termites, reports say.

The monastery was founded in 1774 by Brazil's first saint, Antonio Galvao.

The head of the monastery, Father Armenio Rodrigues Nogueira, said the discovery was a huge surprise.

"There were some mounds of termite dust and the exterminators broke into the walls to see what was in there," he told Reuters news agency.

Mari Marino, director of the Museum of Sacred Art, told the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper that the mummies were found side by side "one with its head on the shoulder of the other".

She said one had preserved skin, shoes and hands together in the "Amen position". The other was mostly skeleton.

Natural mummies

The bodies were found in the wall of an area inside the monastery that was used as a cemetery. About 129 nuns were buried within the building between 1774 and 1822, when burials started to take place outside.

Sergio Monteiro da Silva of the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at the University of Sao Paulo, who took part in the excavations, does not believe the nuns were buried together.

"The second nun probably died years later and, during the burial, the first was pushed to the back," he told the Folha de Sao Paulo.

Mr da Silva said the mummification process had probably happened naturally thanks to good ventilation and low humidity.

"There are no indications that the nuns were mummified," he told Globo News.

Tests have been done on the bodies and archive research is being carried out to try to identify them. Ms Marino said she hoped the public would be able to view the bodies later this year.


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