The opening of Tycho Brahe’s tomb on Monday 15th November will be one of the biggest highlights so far in a project which aims to give new and more exact information on the world famous Danish astronomer’s general health and medical prescriptions.
Using modern techniques such as CT scanning, DNA testing and PIXE analysis on Tycho Brahe’s remains, a team of Danish and Czech researchers, under the leadership of medieval archaeologist Jens Vellev of Aarhus University, hope to gain as much reliable information as possible relating to the scientist’s health and medical history- primarily from during his lifetime. The cause of his death, while not the first priority, will also be touched upon.
The research team consists of Danish and Czech archaeologists, medical anthropologists, doctors, chemists, textile restorers and antiquarians. As well as the medical investigations, any textile remains will be examined, while a measurement of the tomb will also be carried out.
Tycho Brahe’s tomb has been opened once before, in 1901, the 300th anniversary of his death.
‘No measurement data or photographical details exist from that time, only physical descriptions of the skeletal remains. We can now supplement these with a number of analyses, so you could say that we are completing the investigation that was begun in 1901’, Jens Vellev explains.
On opening the tomb at Týn Church in Prague on Monday 15th November 2010, the first step taken by the research team will be to drill a hole into the bricked-up crypt where the remains of Tycho Brahe lie in a 1.5 metre long sealed tin coffin. An overview of the contents of the tomb can then be gained by feeding a remote camera into the tomb.
The condition of its contents are at present unknown.
‘We do not know what we are likely to find in terms of material, nor do we know how the bones have been preserved’ says Jen Vellev. The researchers will therefore have to work ad hoc, judging what needs to be done as they go.
The plan following the opening of the tomb is to transport the coffin to a laboratory in Prague, where it can be opened. The team hope to find bones and remains of a beard, the earthly remains of Tycho Brahe.
Another key aspect of the project is the analysis of any surviving parts of Tycho Brahe’s burial suit. These analyses could form the basis of a reconstruction of the aristocratic renaissance costume in patterned silk.