The story of Dante Alighieri’s human remains and their anthropological analysis in the past centuries.

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Luigi Papi

Keywords

Dante Alighieri, skeleton

Abstract

Dante Alighieri’s death took place in the night between the 13th and the 14th of September 1321 in Ravenna, the city where Dante spent the last period of his life. In the years after Dante’s death, his mortal remains underwent mysterious disappearances and were then “accidentally rediscovered” in 1865, during the renovation of the tomb.


With regard to the cause of Dante’s death, the prevailing historical opinion (firstly hypothesized by Stefano Cavazzuti) attributes it to malaria that the poet would have contracted on his return journey from Venice, but, until now, no historical documents have been found to prove this hypothesis. Hence, the identification of the actual cause of death still remains a challenge.


In the past, two scientific analyses have been carried out on Alighieri’s bones, the first in 1865 by Professor Puglioli and Bertozzi and the second in 1921 by Professor Frassetto and Sergi. Indeed, the results of these analyses gave us a lot of useful information about the actual physical features of the Poet and about some pathological data, but the obvious limitations of the technology of the past century makes particularly interesting the forthcoming scientific analysis of Dante’s bones, programmed in 2021, which surely will provide us a lot of useful information about the life and the death of Dante Alighieri.

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