Science has been baffled by the mysteries of our world for years. There have been numerous murder mysteries that have taken the scientific understandings and explanations by storm. However, there are many ancient whodunits that still have not been solved, and there have been many cases which have been solved right after the alleged crime was committed. Modern science takes its own course of understanding to determine the reason for the death of any person in the history.
There have been some great conjectural murders or tales of crime in the past, the mystery of which have been recently explained by the modern science. Here are some of the captivating crime mysteries from the long gone centuries which science helped to decode.
1. The Boy in the Cellar
In 1991, Maryland, a skeleton of a 16 year old boy was discovered in the cellar pit of a house. It was later discovered that the skeleton that was found by Erin Cullen as part of the Lost Town project, belonged to a Caucasian male buried between 1665 and 1675. After the examination, forensic anthropologist Douglas Owsley found broken teeth, damaged spine and a fractured wrist in the body and made an analysis that the boy was a house servant who was abused, killed and buried so no one could learn that he died.
2. Wait, the President was not assassinated?
The 12th President of United States, Zachery Taylor died on July 9, 1850, from stomach cramps. The doctors attributed his sudden death to stomach ailment but there was more to the story. Historian Clara Rising was working on a novel about Taylor when she noted that his symptoms were similar to arsenic poisoning. As the issue of slavery was menacing the US during his presidency, Clara speculated that anti-abolitionists have poisoned the President because they were angry at his opposition to the extension of slavery in the states. Forensic anthropologists William Maples unearthed the President’s body to examine the possibility but he was disappointed as he could not solve the century-and-a-half-old murder mystery. Forensic pathologist George Nichols did find arsenic in the remains, but that was not enough to indicate the poisoning and ruled out the reason to be a natural ailment leading to gastroenteritis.
3. The Murdered Emperor
There were heavy speculations about the death of Napoleon Bonaparte in exile on the St. Helena Island in 1821. Even after physicians declared the cause of death of the former emperor to be stomach ulcers, many suspected that he was poisoned by the British captors. In 2007, a team of scientists re-examined the case by applying modern scientific techniques to interpret the old medical records of the doctors who examined Napoleon primarily. It was found that high levels of arsenic prevailed in his hair. But largely there was no evidence of arsenic poisoning. Since, there were pieces of evidence of the lesion in his stomach leading to gastrointestinal bleeding, the cause of the death was declared to be an aggressive form of stomach cancer.
4. Skeleton family in the Well
In 2004, the skeletons of 17 people were discovered during an archaeological excavation in Norwich. At first, the archaeologists who led the excavation predicted that the bodies belonged to the victims of the plague. However, after carbon dating, it was found that the descendants were from 12th or 13th century, a time much before the plague hit England. Using DNA sequence analysis, bone chemical studies, carbon dating and historical evidence, researchers found out that five of the bodies belonged to a single Jewish family who might be victims of Jewish persecution. Although it was not revealed exactly how they died, the evidence hinted towards mass execution or group suicide. The remains were later buried in a Jewish cemetery.
5. Pee or Poison killed Tycho Brahe
Tycho Brahe was a renowned Danish astronomer of the 16th century best known for his work on the celestial bodies and categorizing over 1000 new stars. There has been a theory that Brahe, who supposedly died of a bladder infection in 1601, was actually poisoned to death by his own assistant Johannes Kepler, using mercury. People started speculating the reason to be the affair he had with the mother of Christian IV of Denmark. Scientists exhumed his body in 2010 and carried out experiments and found no signs of mercury in his body. It was later found out that he died of bladder outburst as he was too embarrassed to leave the royal feast table to go the bathroom. So, it was presumed that Brahe died of bladder or kidney infection.
6. Death of the Ruler
Former Ruler of Verona, Cangrande I della Scala died suddenly in 1329 at the age of 38. After taking over the city from Guecello Tempesta, Cangrande fell deathly ill. The cause of the death came out to be the water that he drank from the polluted stream. However, there were rumors that he was murdered. When his body was unearthed recently to determine the truth behind his death, the autopsy showed that he consumed a deadly plant called digitalis. The researchers told that the amount of digitalis that was found was consistent with a deliberate poisoning.