Archaeology Tales from the crypt that bury Medici history in ever deeper mystery

Discussion in 'Archaeology' started by mscbkc070904, Mar 22, 2005.

  1. mscbkc070904

    mscbkc070904 Premium Member

    Donatella Lippi calls it a "terrible problem". She and other researchers who have spent the past 10 months prising open the tombs of one of Europe's most illustrious families, the Medicis of Florence, have got more than they bargained for.
    They have found the remains of eight children they cannot place on the family tree. Worse still, some of the bodies appear to have been switched around or muddled up over the centuries.

    The resulting confusion is making yet more difficult an already immense and challenging undertaking that is shining light into the recesses of the Renaissance.
    The aim of the project, which reached the end of its first phase last week, is to build up a picture of the lives, and deaths, of the members of a family that ruled Florence for more than 300 years and funded many of Italy's greatest artists.

    Dr Lippi, a lecturer at the University of Florence, said it could be decades before the last conclusions were wrung from the evidence being discovered. Last week team members received their latest shock when they opened the tomb of Filippino, son of Grand Duke Francesco I, who ruled Florence from 1574 until 1587.

    "We know, from historic evidence, that Filippino was four years and nine months old when he died," said the leader of the project, Gino Fornaciari. "But what we found were the remains of a one-year-old child. Now, there is a margin of error. But it is only plus or minus four months. So, clearly, it was not the body of Filippino."

    But who is, or was, it? The same question can be asked of bones found in another eight tombs, most of them in a previously secret crypt discovered below the Church of San Lorenzo last July.

    "It cannot be ruled out that at least some of these children were illegitimate," said Dr Lippi, the team's historian.

    Dr Fornaciari, a lecturer at the University of Pisa, said he expected that some of the mysteries surrounding the crypt would be cleared up when the team created a "DNA map" of the Medicis at a later stage in the project. "It was always going to be done, but now it has become even more important," he said.

    But Dr Lippi was sceptical that DNA tests could provide all the answers. They might be able to show which children were born of which parents, but they could not distinguish between siblings without documentary evidence which, in some cases, might not exist.

    "You have to remember that, in earlier times, the rate of infant mortality was extremely high," she said.

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