Two American archaeologists have asked the Queen of England for permission to dig up Henry VIII and use the latest techniques to reconstruct his face. Bioarchaeologist Catrina Whitley and anthropologist Kyra Kramer popped the question because they’re interested in seeing how accurate the royal portraits of the famous king really are. They also want to perform DNA tests to see if he suffered from a rare illness that might have driven him insane.
Facial reconstruction on skulls is nothing new and has been steadily improving over the years. It’s used in archaeology to study ancient people and by CSI teams to identify murder victims.
Drs. Whitley and Kramer would like to open Henry VIII’s grave in St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle and measure his skull. They can then create an accurate image of what he looked like in real life.
While this is interesting and is sure to make lots of headlines, of more historic importance is their plan to analyze the king’s DNA to test for McLeod Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that can lead to schizophrenia. Historians have long wondered why an intelligent, level-headed leader became an erratic tyrant in later life. His wives must have wondered too.
No word yet from Queen Elizabeth on whether she’ll allow her predecessor to be exhumed.
For more on how archaeologists go about reconstructing a face from a skull, check out this video of a similar project that reconstructed the face of an ancient Greek girl.
[Photo courtesy Vincent Steenberg]