Researchers are looking for a new reason why Anna Maria Louisa de’ Medici, the last member of the famous Medici clan, died after recent photos of her exhumed body showed no signs of late-stage syphilis.
Her body was exhumed for a week before being reburied. During that time, scientists made a three-dimensional scan of the skeleton, which enabled them to create an exact replica of it. They removed two medallions from the coffin for restoration, and took a piece of bone for testing.
Albert Zink, a biological anthropologist at the European Academy of Bolzano in Italy, is carrying out a DNA analysis of Anna Maria Luisa’s bones and material from a pot believed to contain her entrails, which according to Medici tradition would have been buried separately from her body. Zink also analysed the DNA of Ötzi, the 5,200-year-old iceman found in the Alps in 1991.
Anna Maria Luisa’s skeleton “does not indicate late-stage syphilis, which is characterized by skull remodelling and bone outgrowth”, says Zink. But, he adds, it does not rule out earlier stages of the disease, which can in some cases result in organ failure and death.
Story: Alison Abbot, Nature | Photo: Wilfried Rosendahl/Rem