Forensic Team to Exhume Bodies of Medici Family in Florence
Royal Remains May Unlock Clues to Modern Diseases
Rita Langdon,Associate Provost and Director of Public Relations
C.W. Post Campus,
Long Island University
This June 2004, an international team of paleopathologists, anthropologists, historians and archaeologists - including world-renowned Egyptologist Dr. Bob Brier of the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University in New York - will descend upon the church of San Lorenzo in Florence, Italy to exhume some of the 49 bodies of the Medici Family, the most influential rulers of the Renaissance era. Scientists are hoping to shed light on the origins of today’s modern diseases while learning more about the family’s diets, lifestyles and causes of death. This is the first time in 50 years that anyone has entered the crypt and some of the tombs have not been opened since the 16th century.
According to Project Director Dr. Gino Fornaciari, "The paleopathological study of the bodies will increase considerably the knowledge currently available about the life habits and diseases, as well as personality traits of the members of the dynasty. It will also allow recovery of important historical and artistic remains, with important results for specialists and of great interest for the wider public."
Why the Medici?
The Medici ruled Florence during the Renaissance; they not only cultivated art (funding Michelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel and Divinci’s Mona Lisa portrait) and culture, but they also had access to the finest culinary delights of that time. Still, they were highly susceptible to the harsh diseases we as humans still fight today. As members of the ruling class, the Medici were entombed upon their deaths and great care was taken to preserve their remains because of their royal status. The human remains, which were buried from 1492 to 1600 in the Medici Chapel, are perfectly positioned for the study of intact tissue samples, according to Dr. Brier.
Who are the Key Players?
The forensic team consists of Dr. Gino Fornaciari, professor of forensic anthropology and director of the Pathology Museum at the University of Pisa; Dr. Donatella Lippi, associate professor of the history of medicine at the University of Florence; and Dr. Bob Brier, senior research fellow at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University and internationally renowned mummy expert. The results of the Medici Project will air on The Learning Channel in February 2005 as part of a documentary hosted by Dr. Brier.
What is Paleopathology?
Paleopathology combines state-of-the-art methodologies of archaeology, physical anthropology and pathology to unravel the morphological traces of ancient diseases. Through the examination of human remains, scientists are able to determine the medical paths of current and former diseases, thereby helping modern day medical experts develop a sense of the stages and evolution of the illnesses, which affect us today. Paleopathology takes into account the eating habits, natural environments and genetic structures of our ancestors.
For additional information, please contact the C.W. Post Public Relations Office at 516-299-2334 or e-mail Rita.Langdon@liu.edu.
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