NEWS > Life
Joan of Arc relics fake, smell like vanilla
2007-04-05 16:42:22 Xinhua English

BEIJING, April 6 (Xinhuanet) -- One of the reasons the relics of Joan of Arc's body -- housed in a church museum -- are forgeries and not the remains of the 15-century French heroine and saintis the charred-looking human rib smells like vanilla.

Researchers used several techniques to investigate the remains, including infrared and atomic-emission spectroscopy, mass spectroscopy, electron microscopy, pollen analysis and, more unusually, the help of the leading "noses" of the perfume industry, it was reported Wednesday.

The sniffers detected hints of vanilla in the remains, which is inconsistent with cremation.

"Vanilla is produced during decomposition of a body,í▒ explained Philippe Charlier, a forensic scientistat Raymond Poincare Hospital in Garches, near Paris, France. "You would find it in a mummy, but not in someone who was burnt."

Instead, the sacred items were manufactured from the remains of an Egyptian mummy, scientists say.

"I'd never have thought that it could be from a mummy," Charlier told the journal Nature. The finding of the fabrication was reported by news@nature.com, the online site of the journal Nature.

The relics include the charred-looking human rib, chunks of seemingly burnt wood, a six-inch strip of linen and a cat femur -- consistent with the medieval practice of throwing black cats onto the pyres of alleged witches. They are housed in a museum in Chinon that belongs to the Archdiocese of Tours, in France.

Other lines of evidence indicating the relics are fake, according to the Nature article, include black crust found on the rib and cat femur was not made by burning but is consistent with Egyptian embalming fluids, andthe linen cloth has a coating characteristic of mummy wrappings.

Also large amounts of pine pollen were found among the relics. Pine trees did not grow in Normandy at the time Joan of Arc was killed, but pine resin was widely used in Egypt during embalming, andradiocarbon dating of the remains suggests they originated sometime between the third and sixth centuries BC. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431.

Egyptian mummies were used in Europe during the Middle Ages in pharmaceutical remedies, Charlier said, and it's probable someone stole the remains from one to fabricate the relics, which are said to have been discovered in a jar in 1867 in the attic of a Paris pharmacy.


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