Sunday 4 May 2008

The skull in poet Schiller's tomb is not Schiller's

From Deutsch Welle:

DNA tests prove that a skull venerated by many literature lovers as the "brainbox" of 18th-century German dramatist Friedrich Schiller actually sat atop the shoulder's of a very different man, a German official said.

Genetic material was taken in 2006 from the skull, kept in a tomb in Weimar, central Germany, where Schiller and fellow author Johann Wolfgang Goethe lived, and compared to material from the graves of Schiller relatives.

Schiller (1759-1805), who wrote influential plays critical of inequality, has no direct descendants still alive.

The skull was recovered from a royal courtiers' mass grave in Weimar 21 years after his death as a cult developed around him, and it was treated for 180 years as Schiller's, based on many points of resemblance to his appearance.

"The DNA analysis shows without a shadow of a doubt that this is not the author's skull," Julia Glesner, a spokeswoman for the Weimar Foundation which preserves the German Classicist heritage, said on Saturday, May 3.

Adding to the mystery is a controversy over a second skull found in 1911 in the same mass grave, regarded by some as Schiller's. But the DNA tests found it too belonged to someone else.

Read the whole story here.

And The Local here.

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