Bones of Copernicus Get Positive ID

Polish bishop asks archaeologists to find the unmarked grave of Nicolaus Copernicus under the floor of Frombork Cathedral. Archaeologists find a damaged burial including a jawless skull, and note that it’s a male of the right age and with signature wounds visible on contemporary portraits of the astronomer. But they’re still not quite sure if they have the right bones. So they do something extremely smart.

They vacuum a book known to have belonged to Copernicus, kept in a library in Uppsala, and they get little bits of human hair out of it. Then they have the hairs and a number of bones and teeth from the burial DNA-fingerprinted. And two hairs match the bones!

In other news, Robert Lancaster has had some domain-name trouble with his successful website combating psychic fraudster Sylvia Browne. Whatever URL you may have used before, now it’s This goes for any and all web pages and old blog entries out there, in order to give the new URL its rightful place next to Sylvia Browne‘s own site in the Google searches.


10 thoughts on “Bones of Copernicus Get Positive ID

  1. Goddamn. I guess the theory that heliocentrism was brought to us by Aliens, and that Nicolaus Copernicus was one of the Lizard People, has to go out the window.


  2. Just a couple days ago I read something about vacuuming DNA bits from famous dead people’s books and possessions in Spider Robinson’s “Callahan’s Key”. It is interesting to see that people are doing it.


  3. “…the skull bears a cut mark above the left eye that corresponds with a scar shown in the painting.”

    Looks like the right eye to me. No?


  4. Yep, it looks like the right eye on both the painting and the reconstruction. There was a documentary on Swedish public service TV (SVT) the other day. Interesting stuff, but for the first half hour or so I was distracted by the Polish they spoke. It’s not the usual TV language 🙂


  5. more likely tourist trade. can’t invite astronomers and rationalists to come visit Copernicus’ grave if you don’t know where it is, first.


  6. Very cool! I wonder if they’re going to get requests for the data from people who want to prove they’re related to Copernicus?


  7. I am probably one of the few people outside of Poland who have visited the Frombork Cathedral and the tower from which Mikolaj Kopernik looked out with his telescope. It really is a beautiful view from there and it is just a few hundred yards from the water, very clear skies. One of my schoolmates, we were ordained together, came from a small village not far from there and when I went to visit his parish for his first Mass I begged him to take me. So I can say I’ve been there, seen that and the Bishop is right to rally science to the tourist claims, smart!


  8. A link to pictures of the site. The pictures do the site justice, the text is all in Polish though for those of you who don’t read it, it mainly describes the views, south wall…
    I couldn’t find anything in the Polish press, secular or Catholic, to indicate that the diocese had any interest in the excavation. Maybe I am missing something though.


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