Bones in Germany verified as Charlemagne's

After 26 years of research and exactly 1200 years after his death, scientists have announced that bones at Aachen Cathedral are likely those of Charlemagne.

After 26 years of research and exactly 1200 years after his death, scientists have announced that bones interred at Aachen Cathedral are likely those of Charlemagne, the first post-classical Western emperor.

They also said the man known in German as Karl der Grosse, which can be rendered as Charles the Great or Charles the Big, was truly both, having been unusually tall for his time.

The human remains found in Charlemagne's golden shrine, which was secretly opened in 1988, are of a tall, thin, older man, they concluded.

Charlemagne, king of the Franks (768-814), king of the Lombards (774-814), and crowned emperor of the West - later to become known as the Holy Roman Empire - in 800 by Pope Leo III, died in 814. He was in his late 60s or early 70s.

"On the basis of the results from 1988 until now, we can say that in all likelihood it is the skeleton of Charlemagne," said Frank Ruehli, a professor at the University of Zurich's Institute of Anatomy.

Presenting the results along with Ruehli was Joachim Schleifring, an anthropologist who in 1988 recorded the contents of the shrine - 94 bones and bone fragments - for the Bonn-based Rhenish Office for the Preservation of Archaeological Monuments.

Skull fragments kept in a silver-and-gold bust of Charlemagne in the cathedral's treasury were examined later, as was a shinbone from the treasury's gilded Charlemagne reliquary.

Based on the dimensions of an upper arm, thigh and two shinbones, the scientists put Charlemagne's height at 1.84 metres, considerably taller than most men of his era. Their "rough estimate" of his weight was 78 kilograms, giving a body-mass index of 22.

Previous calculations of Charlemagne's height, using eight different methods, ranged from 1.79 to 1.92 metres.

The scientists said they had found bone spurs on a kneecap and heel bone, consistent with a limp in old age described by Charlemagne's biographer and contemporary Einhard, a Frankish scholar.

But they found no evidence of the cause of death. Einhard's account mentioned sharp chest pains and fever, possibly indicating pneumonia.

2 min read
Published 4 February 2014 at 5:18pm
Source: AAP