For centuries, the Archbishops of Tours (Chinon, France) have protected one of the holiest relics of the Church: the charred bones of Joan of Arc. Kept in a bottle and showing signs of the burning, the bones were a prized possession in France where Joan of Arc is the national heroine. New tests, however, reveal that the bottle contains the bones of a cat and an Egyptian.
The study shows that the bones originated from the 6th to the 3rd century B.C.
The relics were first displayed at a pharmacy in 1867 (not exactly a promising start) with a sign that read: “Remains found under the pyre of Joan of Arc, maiden of Orleans.” That curious beginning did not prevent people from heralding the bone fragments as the actual remains of the saint. (This is why I only get my holy body parts from reputable sanctified bone dealers).
The results will be published in the Forensic Science International journal.
A prior study identified the bones as being a human rib bone and a part of a cat, but supporters immediately argued that a cat may have been thrown into the fire as a symbol of the devil.
The researchers also found a “textile scrap” that may be part of the wrapping of a mummy. Other chemicals found are consistent with Egyptian embalming. Medieval pharmacists would sometime grind up mummy bits to stop things like nose bleeds. A type of mummy’s little helper.
The news that people have been honoring a dead Egyptian and his cat has come as a bit of an unpleasant surprise. However, it has only increased the value of my own display of the unevolved thigh bone of Charles Darwin, which is available to the highest bidder.
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