Mozart Skull Investigation Hits Sour Note

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Scientists took samples from the thighbones of the skeletons for genetic testing.

But DNA analysis by researchers at the Institute for Forensic Medicine in Innsbruck and the U.S. Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in Rockville, Maryland, proved inconclusive.

The team found no link between the skull and the exhumed remains, nor among the remains themselves.

"The identity of the individuals concerned remains a mystery," Parson told Austrian television viewers last night.

Mixed Views

Since it began, the identification project has provoked mixed reactions among residents of Salzburg. The medieval city of 147,000 takes pride—and profit—from its status as Mozart's birthplace.

"[The] curious … want to know, Is it really Mozart's skull?" Maria Altendorfer, a city tourist official, said in an interview last year. Others "are saying, It's not good to open the graves after so many years. Let them rest in peace."

"But of course it's interesting, and I think I'm more for the curious side," she said.

Horst Reischenböck, a local music critic and tour guide, said the skull holds little interest for him. "For me, they should leave the dead in the graves," he said.

His sentiments were echoed by Genevieve Geffray, a librarian at the Mozarteum since 1973. (The foundation, which owns the skull, was not involved in the research project.)

"A skull cannot compose," she said. "It's not so interesting."

But some experts think the skull could offer valuable clues about Mozart's life and early death at age 35.

Most historians believe Mozart died from rheumatic fever. But the skull, should it ever be conclusively linked to Mozart, could open other possibilities.

In a similar but unrelated project, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory reported last month that x-ray analysis of skull fragments from Ludwig van Beethoven showed that the German composer died of severe lead poisoning.

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