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Author Topic: How can the provenance of a death mask be confirmed?  (Read 1815 times)

Offline Matthew L

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In a recent documentary, historians and scientists were showing what historical figures really looked like based on their death/life masks, painting and written accounts, and in some cases photographs.  A problem is evident in the series: they cannot be certain about the authenticity of each mask.  I am wondering why they cannot take something off the death mask, such as an eyelash (which was found on the supposed death mask of William Shakespeare) and match the DNA with the corpse.  The historical figures on the series were Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare, Napoleon Bonaparte and John Dillinger. 

With Caesar, however, it would be impossible because there is no corpse, as he was cremated. 
« Last Edit: 28/08/2011 22:06:23 by chris »


 

Offline chris

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Re: How can the provenance of a death mask be confirmed?
« Reply #1 on: 28/08/2011 22:05:51 »
That's a good idea, but one frustation with DNA technology is that it is so sensitive that you wouldn't just amplify the genetic fingerprint of the death mask's original owner, but also the maker and all the people who have handled the specimen since, as well as lots of other contaminating sequences.

This would significantly hamper the investigation; however, forensically the police surmount this difficulty all the time, so the chances are it might be effective.

Chris
 

Offline Matthew L

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How can the provenance of a death mask be confirmed?
« Reply #2 on: 28/08/2011 23:04:14 »
With the exception of Lincoln and Dillenger, all the figures listed died before the invention of the photograph, so it is a bit eerie seeing them so human like with advanced CGI graphics.  Death masks cannot lie, but paintings can, as we never know how much of a painting is manipulated.  I've seen so many portraits of George Washington and they all look so different. 
 

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How can the provenance of a death mask be confirmed?
« Reply #2 on: 28/08/2011 23:04:14 »

 

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