Yesterday, a team of archaeologists, doctors, chemists and medical anthropologists from Sweden, Denmark, and the Czech Republic raised the 400-year-old remains of observant and influential Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601). Brahe (1st image) had been interred in a tin casket (3rd image) in the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn near Prague's Old Town Square. Team leader Jens Vellev, a professor of medieval archaeology at Aarhus University, oversaw the exhumation (2nd image) and will remove and test samples in an effort to answer the following questions:
- Does the condition of the skeletal remains match the physical description recorded in 1901, when the tomb was opened to mark the 300th anniversary of Brahe's death?
- Was his death correctly attributed to the rupture of his bladder due to obeying protocol and refusing to leave the table to use the bathroom during a royal banquet?
- Did kidney disease or kidney stones play a role in his death?
- Was Brahe in fact accidentally or deliberately poisoned, as suggested by unusually high levels of mercury detected in previously obtained samples of his mustache and hair?
- Or had he been prescribed mercury as a medical treatment for syphilis or ingested too much of it in the course of his experiments?
- Will enough shreds of Brahe's patterned silk burial suit remain to allow them to reconstruct the aristocratic outfit?
- Is there enough evidence on Brahe's skull to determine the material (possibly a silver-copper alloy) used to construct the missing prosthetic nose he wore after his was cut off during a duel with a fellow nobleman in 1566?