Monday, March 4, 2013


When British monarch Richard the Lionheart (1157–1199) died in France, his body was not buried in one piece. It was parceled out, as was common among medieval aristocracy. His entrails were buried in Châlus where he died and his body was buried at the feet of his father at Fontevraud Abbey in Anjou. But his heart (2nd image) received special treatment and was entombed in a lead box (1st image) at Rouen in Normandy. Recently, forensic experts and historians examined the embalmed heart to see what they could find out. Dr. Philippe Charlier of France's Raymond Poincare University Hospital explains, "We did a microscopic examination, toxicological analysis and also a pollen analysis." Microscopy showed pollen of plants that were flowering at the time of year that he died. Toxicology showed no signs of arsenic or any other poison, so they were able to rule that out as the cause of his death. But perhaps most interesting were the details they were able to ferret out about the preparation and preservation of his heart: mercury to stop it from decomposing and frankincense, myrtle, daisy, mint, and possibly lime to give it an odor of sanctity. If you are having difficulty making out the heart in the photo above – as I did – it is because it had been reduced to a grey–green powder long before the forensic scientists began their analysis...

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