The ‘relics of Joan of Arc’: A forensic multidisciplinary analysis

The ‘relics of Joan of Arc’: A forensic multidisciplinary analysis

By P. Charlier et al.

Forensic Science International, No.194 (2010)

Abstract: Archaeological remains can provide concrete cases, making it possible to develop, refine or validate medico-legal techniques. In the case of the so-called ‘Joan of Arc’s relics’ (a group of bone and archaeological remains known as the ‘Bottle of Chinon’), 14 specialists analysed the samples such as a cadaver X of carbonised aspect: forensic anthropologist, medical examiners, pathologists, geneticists, radiologist, biochemists, palynologists, zoologist and archaeologist. Materials, methods and results of this study are presented here. This study aims to offer an exploitable methodology for the modern medico-legal cases of small quantities of human bones of carbonised aspect.

Introduction: Under the authority of the Association des Amis du Vieux Chinon and the Archbishop of Tours (curator of the remains), a scientific analysis was recently performed on the so-called ‘relics of Joan of Arc’, which reside in Chinon (in central France). These remains were initially conserved in a little glass bottle dating from the beginning of the 19th century on whose cap is written the text: ‘‘Restes trouve´ s sous le buˆcher de Jeanne d’Arc, Pucelle d’Orle´ans’’ (i.e., ‘‘remains found under the pyre of Joan of Arc, maiden of Orleans’’) published for the first time in 1867. It should be noted that Joan of Arc died at the age of 19, burnt in the market place of Rouen (Normandy) on 30 May 1431.

The following analysis was performed to determine if these remains are the authentic bones and ashes of the French saint. Currently used techniques in forensic anthropology and scientific analysis were performed. This study may give a model of methodology to be used with poorly conserved burnt organic remains (as those left for analysis after criminal or accidental fire)

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