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DNA Testing Solves Literary Riddle


Scientists from Innsbruck University in Austria have made unravelling mysteries something of a speciality. They have used DNA testing to attempt to solve riddles and secrets trapped in time. The scientists have undertaken DNA tests to help identify Mozart’s skull. And the team have also used analysis of DNA for more recent tragedies, including identifying victims of the 2004 tsunami.

DNA Testing and the ‘Schiller code’

Now the scientists are hoping that DNA testing will finally crack the ‘Schiller code’. Friedrich Schiller was Germany’s most renowned playwright, famed for writing the Ode to Joy. The poet and philosopher however caused as much a stir in death as he did in life when two skulls both thought to be that of Schiller became the subject of a long running mystery for literary historians.

Family Remains Exhumed

In order to successfully undertake the DNA testing, Schiller’s family remains have had to be exhumed. The teeth and bones of his wife and son will be used to work out which skull is the authentic one when compared with the DNA in the skulls skeleton and hair.

Mixed Bones in Mass Grave

The mystery around Schiller’s skull began after he was buried in a mass grave. The mayor of Weimar searched out Schiller’s skull and randomly picked one from the grave. It was stored in a library and hailed as that of the great poet. The skull was then removed by the German writer Goethe and stored in his house. By 1827 the remains were moved again and were said to be fake when a researcher produced yet another skull claiming it was Schiller’s. Modern testing will put to rest which skull is indeed the authentic one. There are even rumours that the original skull is neither of the two in question but that it is still buried – under Goethe’s floorboards.

Will DNA Testing Put The Mystery to Rest?

The mystery of the skulls have intrigued literary historians and forensic historians, but it’s thought DNA testing will finally reveal conclusive results and put the literary mystery to rest.

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