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Digging up Brahe A search for clues to the famous astronomer's death - and life

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Author Topic: Digging up Brahe A search for clues to the famous astronomer's death - and life  (Read 272 times)
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« on: May 16, 2010, 05:12:03 am »

This time, the approach will be much more scientific.

"We will be doing very specialized analyses of his hair and bones for the first time," Vellev said. "We'll be looking not just for mercury, but for elements like calcium and magnesium. We hope to learn not only how he died, but how he lived - what he ate, what medicines he took, if he had a serious disease as a child."

Vellev also hopes to get enough material to reconstruct the fabulous silk garment that Brahe was buried in. "It's not the most important thing, but it is a personal interest of mine," he said.

Does he have a favorite theory of how Brahe died?

"No," he said emphatically. "A lot has been written about this mercury, but it's all speculation. There's not enough information to have a good theory. I hope with our work, we can get more."

And his personal goal for the exhumation?

"I just hope to get a better picture of Tycho Brahe's life, and life during that time," he said. "As an archaeologist, if you exhume an anonymous person, it's not so interesting. But if you can combine an exhumation with written sources, you can get much closer to your subject."

Whatever Vellev and his colleagues find, it will take a year or two to analyze it properly, with no guarantee what the results will show. So the mystery of Brahe's death will linger, perhaps indefinitely. But his life, like the stars he studied night after night, will almost certainly come into much sharper focus.
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