VIENNA, Austria – DNA tests could soon solve a century-old mystery – whether a skull held by the International Mozarteum Foundation is that of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Archaeologists have opened a grave in Salzburg thought to contain the remains of Mozart’s father and other relatives. Experts plan to compare the remains’ genetic material with the foundation’s skull to determine if it belonged to the famed Austrian composer.
Mozart died in 1791 and was buried in a pauper’s grave at Vienna’s St. Marxer Cemetery. The location of the grave was initially unknown, but its likely location was determined in 1855. The grave on that spot is adorned by a column and a sad-looking angel.
Legend has it that a gravedigger who knew which body was Mozart’s sneaked the skull out of the grave. Through different channels, the skull came to the Mozarteum in Salzburg in 1902, said Dr. Stephan Pauly, the foundation’s director.
It remains at the foundation, out of public view, Pauly said.
The institute is unsure just how the gravedigger got to the skull and how he knew where Mozart’s body was stored.
“There’s been several different examinations carried out, but none has offered conclusive evidence as to whether it belonged to Mozart,” Pauly told the Associated Press in a telephone interview from Salzburg.
The foundation, a private nonprofit organization that works to preserve Mozart’s legacy, was founded in 1880. It made the skull available for the DNA test and is “following this project with great interest,” Pauly said.
The outcome of the testing will be presented early next year, said Burgl Czeitschner, a state television science journalist who initiated the project.
The bodies in the grave were exhumed last week, and consultations will be held this month on the tests, she said.
Several skeletons were found in the grave. But because of the burial procedures of the era, it’s not certain that the remains in it come from the names listed on the grave stones, Czeitschner said.