Italians Believe They've Found Caravaggio's Bones
400-year-old mystery may be solved
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Suggested by Disillusioned
Posted Jun 17, 2010 2:55 AM CDT
A detail of Caravaggio's 1609 masterpiece "Adoration of the Shepherds."    (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
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(Newser) – Italian researchers say they're 85% sure bones found in a Tuscan church are the remains of Renaissance wildman Caravaggio. The celebrity painter, known for his boozing, brawling, and womanizing, died in 1610. His last days have long been a mystery, with some speculating that was assassinated for religious reasons. The researchers believe he died of sunstroke while weakened by syphilis, the BBC reports.

The scientists tested bones found deep in the church's crypts while historians searched for papers documenting the painter's movements. "There can't be the scientific certainty because when one works on ancient DNA, it is degraded," an anthropologist on the team tells AP. "But in one set of bones we found all the elements necessary for it to be Caravaggio's—age, period in which he died, gender, height." The bones contained high levels of lead and other metals associated with painting.