for National Geographic News
The charred bones that were long believed to be remains of St. Joan of Arc don't belong to the French heroine but are instead the remains of an Egyptian mummy, a new study has shown.
Philippe Charlier, a forensic scientist at the Raymond Poincaré Hospital in Paris, France, obtained permission last year to study the relics from the church in Normandy where they are housed.
The relics were said to have been retrieved from the French site where Joan was burned at the stake in 1431.
Charlier's team studied the relics—including a fragment of cloth and a human rib—under the microscope and subjected them to chemical tests.
Close inspection of the human rib showed that it had not been burned but may have been heated to create a blackened crust on the surface, Charlier said.
Meanwhile the fragment of linen cloth had a coating characteristic of mummy wrappings and contained large amounts of pine pollen.
"Pine resin was widely used in Egypt during embalming," Charlier explained, adding that pine trees did not grow in Normandy during Joan of Arc's time.
Final proof came from carbon-14 analysis, which dated the human remains to between the third and sixth centuries B.C.
Chemical scans of all the relics further suggested Egypt as the place of origin, as the profiles closely matched those of Egyptian mummies rather than burned bones.
"We were astonished to find [the bone] came from a mummy," he said.
Smelling the Evidence
In his analysis of the artifacts Charlier also used the rather unusual tactic of employing leading "noses" from the perfume industry.
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