Equestrian statue of Cangrande I Della Scala

Mysterious Murder Of 724-Year-Old Italian Warlord Solved By Analyzing His Poop

When it came to archaeology in the past, the death of famous figures within our history would, at times, remain a mystery due to limitations of the era’s methods. Today, archaeology has progressed beyond such limitations, thanks to the advancement of technology. The Inquisitr previously reported such examples of this progression when the true cause of what killed King Tut was discovered. As added bonuses, archaeologists also discovered other details of the boy-king of Egypt, such as his incestuous origins and his remains “spontaneously combusting” within the sarcophagus. Back when King Tut was originally discovered, such details would have never been found.

Now, science is proving useful in archaeology again. Recently, researchers solved the mysterious murder of a 724-year-old Italian warlord. And guess what they did to figure it out? They analyzed his fecal matter. You read it right! Archaeologists had to examine the guy’s poop!

According to the Journal of Archaeological Science and followed-up by RYOT, researchers finally solved what caused the sudden and unexplained death of Cangrande I della Scala. The Italian warlord and patron of famous poet Dante Alighieri (Divina Commedia) was born back in 1291. Cangrande eventually became the most powerful ruler in the history of Verona when he took charge in 1311. However, in 1329, Cangrande became violently ill, which resulted in his death at the age of 38 on July 22, 1329. Because of the suddenness of the illness, rumors quickly spread that Cangrande was poisoned.

From right to left, the sarcophagus lid, the body the moment of opening, his clothing, and finally the autopsy.
From right to left, the sarcophagus lid, the body the moment of opening, his clothing, and finally the autopsy.

Back in 2004, Cangrande I della Scala’s remains were exhumed, 675 years after his death. Cangrande’s remains were found to be well-preserved. As a matter of fact, researchers found signs of arthritis, tuberculosis, and possibly cirrhosis, along with regurgitated food in his throat and trace fecal matter in his colon and rectum. By examining the fecal matter, scientists discovered a mix of chamomile, black mulberry, and pollen spores of Digitalis. The first two are homeopathic treatments, but the latter is from a deadly plant commonly known as foxglove.

Apparently, foxglove is consistent with the fact that Cangrande I della Scala was sick to his stomach before he died. The following detail from the study describes what may have happened.

“The gastrointestinal symptoms manifested by Cangrande in his last house of life are compatible with the early phase of Digitalis intoxication and the hypothesis of poisoning is mentioned by some local historical sources. The most likely hypothesis on the causes of death is that of a deliberate administration of a lethal amount of Digitalis.”

Probably the biggest question that needs to be answered is who killed Cangrande I della Scala. The study narrows it down to two possible suspects, being the neighboring states. The first is the Republic of Venice, while the second is the Ducate of Milan. Both were worried of the new regional power of Cangrande and Verona. It is also plausible that the successor to Verona, Mastino, could have poisoned Cangrande himself.

What are your views on the discovery of an Italian warlord’s death seven centuries later through archaeological science? Do you find the discovery intriguing albeit unique that researches had to analyze his poop?

[Featured Image via Bing, Post Image via University of Pisa]

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