I’ve a quirky but fascinating exclusive in a news article in tonight’s Nature. Here’s the link.
The relics of St Joan of Arc are not the remains of the fifteenth-century French heroine after all, according to European experts who have analysed the sacred scraps. Instead, they say the relics are a forgery, made from the remains of an Egyptian mummy.
Philippe Charlier, a forensic scientist obtained permission to study the relics — cloth, a human rib and a cat femur — from the French church last year. He says he was “astonished” by the results. “I’d never have thought that it could be from a mummy.”
The researchers used a range of techniques to investigate the remains, including mass, infrared and atomic-emission spectrometry, electron microscopy, pollen analysis and, unusually, the help of the leading ‘noses’ of the perfume industry: Sylvaine Delacourte from Guerlain, and Jean-Michel Duriez from Jean Patou.
A series of clues led to conclusion that the relics were of the mummy origin, reinforced by carbon-14 analysis dating the remains to between the third and sixth centuries BC. And the spectrometry profiles of the relics matched those from Egyptian mummies from the period, and not those of burnt bones. Charlier points out that mummies were used in Europe during the Middle Ages in pharmaceutical remedies.