Sunday, December 24, 2006

Bone fragment likely not Joan of Arc - Yahoo! News


Bone fragment likely not Joan of Arc - Yahoo! News:
A rib bone and a piece of cloth supposedly recovered after Joan of Arc was burned at the stake are probably not hers, according to experts trying to unravel one of the mysteries surrounding the 15th century French heroine.

Eighteen experts began a series of tests six months ago on the fragments reportedly recovered from the pyre where the 19-year-old was burned for heresy.

Although the tests have not been completed, findings so far indicate there is "relatively little chance" that the remnants are hers, Philippe Charlier, the head of the team, told The Associated Press on Saturday.

The fragment of linen from the 15th century "wasn't burned. It was dyed," Charlier said. And a blackened substance around the 6-inch rib bone was not "carbonized remains" but vegetable and mineral debris, "something that rather resembles embalming substance," he said.

Joan of Arc was burned to death on May 30, 1431 in the Normandy town of Rouen following a trial. Legend has it that her ashes were scattered in the Seine River.

The rib bone and piece of cloth were supposedly recovered from the pyre by an unidentified person and conserved by an apothecary until 1867, before being turned over to the archdiocese of Tours. They are now stored at a museum in Chinon, about 150 miles southwest of Paris.

In 1909, scientists declared it "highly probable" that the remains were those of Joan of Arc. Given developments in genetic technology in recent years, researchers decided to test the remains again to try to determine if they were definitely hers.

But the probability that the remains are those of Joan of Arc are "enormously lessening," Charlier said. "We're instead moving toward the hypotheses of a fake relic or of a relic that was transformed."