The tomb gave archaeologists a headache for five centuries

Humanity stopped being “lost” in the solar system thanks to Nicolaus Copernicus but was still completely confused when looking for his own grave.

A series of studies spanning from the 16th century to modern times, with the participation of many archaeologists, historians, forensic scientists… have yet to uncover the mystery of Nicolaus Copernicus’s tomb.

The legacy that shocked science

It is a familiar name to those who love astronomy. He is a Polish astronomer, mathematician, physician, engineer, author, and economic theorist.

In the last days of his life – in 1534 – Copernicus promptly published the shocking book De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium .

The tomb has given archaeologists a headache for 5 centuries - Photo 1.

Scientist Nicolaus Copernicus – Painting: Jan Matejko

With sharp arguments, Copernicus became the first person to prove that the Earth is just one of the planets revolving around the Sun. Copernicus’s heliocentric theory became the basis for the most fundamental theories about the Solar System later.

His theory completely contradicted the long-held belief at that time that the Earth was the center of the universe, with celestial bodies such as the Sun, Moon, and planets (most of which were mistakenly thought to be stars) revolving around it.

A century after Copernicus’ death, on March 12, 1663, the famous Italian philosopher, mathematician and astronomer Galileo Galilei even had to face the Inquisition in Rome, Italy, just because he supported the heliocentric theory!

But despite those obstacles, Copernicus’s discoveries as well as Galileo’s footsteps brought astronomy to a new page.

The “hopeless” search

According to an article published in The Conversation magazine by historian Darius von Guttner Sporzynski of Australian Catholic University (Australia), it is believed that the ancient Frombork church in Poland is the resting place of Copernicus.

However, it becomes a big puzzle because even though there are only about 100 graves here, most of the tombstones are uninscribed.

The tomb gave archaeologists a headache for 5 centuries - Photo 2.

Main hall of Frombork Cathedral – Photo: THE CONVERSATION

The “saint” who founded the solar system was revered and sought after by many people from the 16th to 17th centuries.

Another famous but failed attempt came from French Emperor Napoleon, made right after the famous Battle of Eylau in 1807. Napoleon revered Copernicus, praising him as a scientist, mathematician, and astronomer. mighty.

By the 21st century, archaeologists were still “lost”.

In 2005, a team of Polish scientists made another attempt, following up on historian Jerzy Sikorski’s claim that Copernicus was buried near the Altar of the Holy Cross (formerly known as the Altar of St. Waclaw) because he once held a position in the church.

But up to 13 sets of remains were discovered at this altar.

Forensic science speaks out

Analysis of 13 sets of remains at Frombork church showed that one remains was a male about 60-70 years old, most closely matching the description of the scientist Copernicus.

The skull serves as the basis for facial reconstruction.

The tomb gave archaeologists a "headache" for 5 centuries - Photo 3.

Skull of Copenicus – Photo: THE CONVERSATION

At the same time, bone morphology analysis, DNA analysis… were also performed. However, the big difficulty is identifying document sources for comparison. Not a single grave of the Polish scientist’s relatives has ever been known.

By 2006, a source for DNA reference appeared. It was an astronomy book used by Copernicus. There is hair in some pages.

The book has been kept in Sweden since the 17th century, after a Swedish invasion of Poland. It is now in the Gustavianum Museum at Uppsala University.

The good news came unexpectedly: Mitochondrial DNA from the teeth and bones of the skeleton in the unnamed grave matched the hair sample.

However, the hair on the book is only circumstantial evidence (you can’t be 100% sure it’s Copernicus’s hair), so the temporary tomb is only declared “possibly” the resting place of the famous scientist.

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