ROME — Italian researchers said Friday that they may be close to identifying the remains of Caravaggio, the great Italian painter whose death 400 years ago is shrouded in mystery.
The researchers have dug up and studied bones found in a Tuscan town where Caravaggio died in 1610. According to results of carbon dating and other analyses released Friday, one set of bones is compatible with Caravaggio's remains. The bones belonged to a man who died in the same period as the artist at an age between 37 and 45.
Michelangelo Merisi -- known as Caravaggio after his hometown -- died at 39.
Team leader Silvano Vinceti said the bones also have high levels of lead and other metals associated with painting.
"We are closing in," Vinceti said in an interview with Associated Press Television News. "Have we or have we not found the great Caravaggio?"
The results, while promising, are not conclusive.
That's why the group is conducting DNA testing, with results expected in about two weeks. The DNA extracted from the bones will be compared with samples from possible male kin in Caravaggio, in northern Italy.
Even though Caravaggio had no known children, Vinceti said the group has studied the town's death registry and found some 20 possible male relatives.
Caravaggio died in Porto Ercole, a beach town on the Tuscan coast. His death after a dissolute life of street brawls, affairs with prostitutes and even murder, remains an enigma. To this day, his remains are officially missing.
The researchers say he was buried in the town's San Sebastiano cemetery. His bones were dug up when the graveyard was moved in the 1950s to make space for a public park. According to the researchers, the remains were at that point moved to another cemetery nearby.
The cause of Caravaggio's death has also not been established. Possibilities raised by scholars range from malaria to syphilis to murder at the hands of one of the many enemies Caravaggio made during his tumultuous existence.
Vinceti's team includes historians, anthropologists and other scientists. His project has drawn interest as Italy marks the anniversary of Caravaggio's death, but also some skepticism because so much time has passed.