Science

Mystery Solved! Scientists Learn What Killed Caravaggio

The remains of Italian painter Caravaggio are presented during a press conference in Ravenna, Italy, Wednesday, June 16, 2010. Researchers announced results of their year-long project, saying they have likely identified the remains of Caravaggio, 400 years after his death. However, the admit they can never be fully certain, saying the attribution can only be given with an 85 percent probability.

The remains of Italian painter Caravaggio are presented during a press conference in Ravenna, Italy, Wednesday, June 16, 2010. Researchers announced results of their year-long project, saying they have likely identified the remains of Caravaggio, 400 years after his death. However, the admit they can never be fully certain, saying the attribution can only be given with an 85 percent probability.  (AP Photo/Enzo Russo)

ROME — Italian researchers say they believe they have found the remains of the artist Caravaggio 400 years after his death -- and that he died from sunstroke while weakened by syphilis.

The researchers announced results Wednesday of their year-long project, saying bones dug up in the place where Caravaggio died are likely his. However, they acknowledge there is only an 85 percent probability they are right and they can never be fully certain.

Caravaggio died in 1610 aged 39. His bones were never located and the cause of his death never ascertained. Suggested causes have ranged from sudden fever to syphilis.

The researchers conducted carbon dating and DNA testing on the bones.

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, had long remained an enigma.

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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.

A team including historians, anthropologists and other scientists and led by archaeologist Silvano Vinceti has drawn interest as Italy marks the anniversary of Caravaggio's death -- but also some skepticism because so much time has passed.