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The basilica of San Francesco, a major church in Ravenna, features two white marble sarcophagi on both sides of the entrance door. Known as the ‘Strozzi sarcophagus’, the burial to the left was opened in 2008 during extensive restoration work. To the surprise of the investigators, the sarcophagus did not just contain the remains of Giovanni Martino Astocii (or Strozzi), a notary recognised to have been buried there in the 16th century, but accommodated many dislodged bones belonging to several individuals. This paper presents the results of an anthropological and palæopathological investigation aimed at identifying the Minimum Number of the buried Individuals (MNI), their age at death, sex and diseases. At least 7 adults and 5 non-adults were identified as resting in the Strozzi sarcophagus, given a MNI of 12. Among the adults, there were at least two males and one female and at least one young individual and an elderly one.
There are two possible explanations for the presence of so many individuals in the sarcophagus. The bones could either belong to various members of the Strozzi family or could be the result of an early 19th-century contamination, as the remains were first thrown into a mass grave and then put back into the sarcophagus.