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Sci Rep. 2013;3:1296. doi: 10.1038/srep01296.

The embalmed heart of Richard the Lionheart (1199 A.D.): a biological and anthropological analysis.

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  • 1Department of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, University Hospital R. Poincaré (AP-HP, UVSQ), 92380 Garches, France. ph_charlier@yahoo.fr

Abstract

During the Middle Ages, the partition of the cadaver of the elite members was a current practice, with highly technical treatment given to symbolic organs such as the heart. Considered mostly from a theoretical point of view, this notion of dilaceratio corporis has never been biologically explored. To assess the exact kind of embalming reserved to the heart, we performed a full biomedical analysis of the mummified heart of the English King Richard I (1199 A.D.). Here we show among other aspects, that the organ has been embalmed using substances inspired by Biblical texts and practical necessities of desiccation. We found that the heart was deposed in linen, associated with myrtle, daisy, mint, frankincense, creosote, mercury and, possibly, lime. Furthermore, the goal of using such preservation materials was to allow long-term conservation of the tissues, and good-smelling similar to the one of the Christ (comparable to the odor of sanctity).

PMID:
23448897
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3584573
Free PMC Article
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