Washington, January 21 (ANI): In an extensive new study, a team of scientists has determined that the revered relics of Joan of Arc are nothing more than the bones of a human and a cat tracing back to ancient Egypt.
The "relics," which have fooled onlookers for decades, did resemble burnt bones, in keeping with historical accounts of the death of Joan of Arc (1412-1431), who was convicted of heresy and executed by burning.
According to a report in Discovery News, the new research, conducted by medical examiners, pathologists, geneticists, biochemists, a radiologist, zoologist and archaeologist, determined that the artifacts consist of a mummified cat leg bone and human rib, both dating to the 6th-3rd century B.C.
The bottle containing the bones first surfaced at a pharmacy in 1867.
Its label read: "Remains found under the pyre of Joan of Arc, maiden of Orleans."
Different techniques, including DNA analysis, several forms of microscopy, chemical analysis and carbon dating, were used to examine the bottle's contents.
A few years ago, Philippe Charlier, a forensic scientist at Raymond Poincare Hospital in Garches, France, and his team first determined that the bottle contained an approximately 4-inch-long human rib covered with a black coating.
It also housed part of a cat femur covered with the same coating, three fragments of "charcoal" and "a brownish textile scrap" about the same length as the rib.
Charlier said some historians then speculated that a cat, perhaps symbolizing the devil, was thrown onto Joan of Arc's funeral pyre.
Carbon dating, however, found that the objects predate the French heroine's lifetime by many centuries.
The "textile scrap" is likely a mummy wrapping, since "the chemical composition of the coatings was comparable with that of embalming products, such as those used by the old Egyptians," the researchers concluded.
The dark coating contained a mix of bitumen, wood resins, gypsum and other chemicals.
Pine pollen was also identified, probably from pine resin, commonly used during Egyptian embalming.
The researchers believe the remains were first stored as "mummia," which were parts of Egyptian mummies used in medieval pharmaceuticals.
"The question remains of why there was an interest in manufacturing a historical forgery during the 19th century, especially one concerning Joan of Arc," said the researchers, wondering if the forgery surfaced for political reasons in order to tap into Joan of Arc's legacy.
"Or is it only an act of hoax, a joke of a medical student who would have been taken much too seriously?" the researchers wondered. (ANI)