The miracle of Missouri: Thousands of Catholics flock to US church to pray over body of nun
The miracle of Missouri may be explained not by divine intervention but rather by the conditions in which the body was buried, an anthropologist has said.
Thousands have flocked toa small-town church to see and touch the body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, claiming the lack of decomposition after four years in the ground is a sign of her 'incorruptibility' or holiness.
What added to the mystery was the fact that the nun had not been embalmed, when a preservative fluid is put into the body's arteries to slow decomposition.
But a forensic anthropologist who has studied more than a hundred decomposing bodies said it is actually 'very common' for bodies to look like the nun's just a few years after being buried.
Dr Rebecca George told DailyMail.com that a lack of moisture and oxygen in the coffin combined with clay soil keeping the temperature low would have started mummifying the body rather than breaking it down.
Speaking to this website, the Western Carolina University professor said: 'Typically, when a... body is put in a coffin with clothing, just like what we see in the photos from the nun, you are cutting off a lot of the oxygen.