Skip to comments.Tsaritsas' Hair Solves The Mystery Of Their Death
Posted on 07/29/2002 2:13:40 PM PDT by vannrox
Chemical analysis of people's remains from medieval burial places of Moscow Kremlin has shown that the women's bones contain a lot of lead and mercury. Moscow scientists give the following explanation for this fact: women in the Middle Ages used cosmetics and medicinal ointments containing these heavy metals. But the high content of mercury in the hair of Russian Tsaritsas Anastasia Romanova and Elena Glinskaya proves the legends about their poisoning.
In 2000 Moscow scientists at the Institute of Geography, Russian Academy of Sciences, studied the medieval cultural layer and bones from burial places of the Moscow Kremlin dated back 15 - 16 centuries. The scientists wanted to find out the ecological situation of the Kremlin at that time, so they determined the content of lead, mercury, arsenic, and other microelements in the samples. However, they were greatly astonished.
The scientists studied the bone remains of Russian Princesses and Tsaritsas from the Necropolis of the Archangel Cathedral inside the Kremlin. The bones of Grand Duchess Sofia Paleolog, died in 1503, contained 58.6 mg of lead per kg (norm 1.9 mg), 27 mg of zinc (norm 14 mg), 7.1 mg of copper (norm 1.8 mg). The scientists found 115 mg of lead, 1.1 mg of arsenic (norm 0.1 mg), 0.14 mg of mercury (norm 0.04 mg) in the bones of Tsaritsa Evdokia Streshneva, died in 1645, and 20.1 mg of lead, 0.14 mg of mercury, 142 mg of barium (norm 30 mg) in the bones of appanage Princess Evdokia Staritskaya, died in 1569. The bones of Ephrosinia Staritskaya contained 236 mg of lead, 12.9 mg of arsenic, 0.1 mg of mercury. "We suppose that the inhabitants of the medieval Kremlin were continually exposed to the influence of some compounds with higher content of lead, mercury, arsenic and barium", says Professor Alexander L. Alexandrovskiy. "Probably, they were cosmetics and medicines". According to the etiquette of that time, all the dames of the court had to whiten their faces when participating in any official ceremonies.
It is known that at that time the same dyes were used both in cosmetics and in paints. These dyes contained mercury, arsenic, and lead. Most medicinal ointments contained a large amount of the same elements. For example, arsenic medicine was used for the treatment of quinsy and typhus. Arsenic-contained dyes which people used for painting walls were dangerous for people's health too. However, the origin of barium in the bones of Evdokia Staritskaya is not clear. Probably, white lead, which women put on their faces, contained barium.
Higher content of these elements was found in the bones of Tsaritsa Anastasia Romanova, the wife of Ivan IV. She died in 1560 at the age of 25 - 26 and the legend says that she was poisoned. In collaboration with the experts from the Bureau of Forensic Medicine, the scientists carried out the spectral analysis of her well preserved light brown braid and found the high content of mercuric salts: 4.8 mg per 100 grams of the sample. The scraps of the shroud and the decayed matter from the bottom of Anastasia's stone sarcophagus also contained mercury. The scientists believe that the body of the young woman could not accumulate such amount of mercury even if she used cosmetics and ointments daily. Upon acute poisoning the body tries to excrete mercury through kidneys, bowels, and with sweat. Bones do not have enough time to accumulate mercury. However, the hair is soaked with poisoning sweat and keeps the metal for a long time. It is worth mentioning that mercuric salts were the main poisons in the Middle Ages.
The death of Grand Duchess Elena Glinskaya, the second wife of Vasiliy III, in 1538, is connected with a mystery too. The spectral analysis of the princess's cap, on which the scientists found strands of her red hair, showed that it contained much more than a normal concentration of mercury.
The scientists believe that the versions of poisoning Russian Tsaritsas Anastasia Romanova and Elena Glinskaya are clearly proved with the chemical analysis of their hair.
Not knowing a d&mn thing about forensic archaeology, I couldn't really say, but it sounds like there might be alternate explanations.