History of individuals of the 18th/19th centuries stored in bones, teeth, and hair analyzed by LA—ICP—MS–a step in attempts to confirm the authenticity of Mozart’s skull

Stadlbauer, Christina; Reiter, Christian; Patzak, Beatrix; Stingeder, Gerhard; Prohaska, Thomas
June 2007
Analytical & Bioanalytical Chemistry;Jun2007, Vol. 388 Issue 3, p593
Academic Journal
A cranium stored in the Stiftung Mozarteum in Salzburg/Austria which is believed to be that of Mozart, and skeletal remains of suspected relatives which have been excavated from the Mozart family grave in the cemetery in Salzburg, have been subjected to scientific investigations to determine whether or not the skull is authentic. A film project by the Austrian television ORF in collaboration with Interspot Film on this issue was broadcast at the beginning of the “Mozart year 2006”. DNA analysis could not clarify relationships among the remains and, therefore, assignment of the samples was not really possible. In our work this skull and excavated skeletal remains have been quantified for Pb, Cr, Hg, As, and Sb content by laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA–ICP–MS) to obtain information about the living conditions of these individuals. A small splinter of enamel (less than 1 mm3) from a tooth of the “Mozart cranium” was also available for investigation. Quantification was performed by using spiked hydroxyapatite standards. Single hair samples which are recorded to originate from Mozart have also been investigated by LA–ICP–MS and compared with hair samples of contemporary citizens stored in the Federal Pathologic–Anatomical Museum, Vienna. In general, Pb concentrations up to approximately 16 μg g−1 were found in the bone samples of 18th century individuals (a factor of 7 to 8 higher than in recent samples) reflecting elevated Pb levels in food or beverages. Elevated Pb levels were also found in hair samples. The amount of Sb in the enamel sample of the “Mozart cranium” (approx. 3 μg g−1) was significantly higher than in all the other tooth samples investigated, indicating possible Sb ingestion in early childhood. Elevated concentrations of elements in single hair samples gave additional information about possible exposure of the individuals to heavy metals at a particular point in their life.


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