Published July 18, 2012
It's the face that launched a thousand imitations. Now, archaeologists are convinced they've found the body of the real Mona Lisa.
Buried in a crypt beneath a convent in Florence, Italy, archaeologists believe they have uncovered the skeleton belonging to the model who posed for Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece in 1504.
The wife of a rich silk merchant, Lisa Gheradini, is generally accepted by historians to be the woman with the mysterious smile.
Lisa Gheradini, whose married name was Giocondo, became a nun after her husband's death. She was buried in the grounds of the Convent of Saint Ursula where she died in 1542, aged 63.
Archaeologists had to dig through thick concrete laid as part of an effort to turn the convent into barracks for soldiers.
But they quickly unearthed a female-sized human skull, along with fragments of vertebrae and ribs.
It was right where ancient maps and documents had led them to believe Lisa's body had been placed: a crypt reached via a gate and staircase.
The dig was suspended after the archaeologists ran out of funds, but work began again last month.
They have since unearthed a large part of a human skeleton.
However, archeologist Silvano Vinceti, who is in charge of the dig, said it was not certain if the bones belonged to the same individual.
DNA will be extracted from the bones and compared with the remains of Lisa's children, who were buried nearby.
Once her identity is verified, archeologists will use reconstruction techniques on the skull to see how it compares to the face on da Vinci's idyllic painting.
Professor Vincenti claimed last year that hidden initials could be found in the eyes of the Mona Lisa when examined under a high-powered microscope.