[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Saturday, 28 July 2007, 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK
Medici writers exhumed in Italy
Two workers take out a casket containing the remains of two 15th century humanists in Florence's St. Mark's Basilica,
Researchers hope to solve the mystery of the men's deaths
The bodies of two famous Italian literary figures from the 15th Century have been exhumed from St Mark's Basilica in Florence.

Scientists want to learn more about their lives and find out what caused their deaths.

Pico della Mirandola, a humanist philosopher, and the scholar and poet Angelo Ambrosini, known as Poliziano, both died in Florence in 1494.

They belonged to the court of the powerful Medici family.

Pico della Mirandola is believed to have been poisoned, but this has never been confirmed.

Now, DNA analysis of his bones could establish beyond doubt whether this story is true or not.

Poliziano - who was believed to have been one of Pico della Mirandola's lovers - is also a possible poison victim. But another theory is that he died from syphilis, which killed thousands of people all over Europe in an outbreak at the end of the 15th Century.

'Archive of information'

Giorgio Gruppioni, a professor of anthropology from Bologna who is in charge of the project, said modern biomolecular technology and scanning might clear up doubts that have persisted for centuries.

Scientists in front of a box containing the exhumed bones of two 15th century humanists
The exhumations will be the subject of a TV documentary
"Bodies are an archive of information surrounding the life and death of a person," Mr Gruppioni told the Associated Press news agency.

"With today's technology, we can clear up various doubts that have been passed down for centuries and we can provide answers that could not been discovered years ago."

Mr Gruppioni said analysis using the latest technology would also be able to establish what the two men looked like.

"We have already noticed that the structure of Pico's skeleton shows he had quite a robust figure, whereas most paintings show a more slender, feminine stature," he said.

The exhumations have been filmed and will be the subject of a TV documentary when scientists have completed their work.

Country profile: Italy
02 Mar 07 |  Country profiles

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific