Mystery surrounding Mozart skull deepens

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Forensic scientists in Austria have been unable to determine if a skull believed to be that of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is really that of the composer. Scientists admitted on Austrian public TV Sunday that DNA tests on the skull were inconclusive.

A team from the Institute for Forensic Medicine in Innsbruck and the U.S. Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory analyzed a tooth drawn from the skull, which the Mozarteum foundation in Salzburg obtained in 1902.

The DNA was compared to that of skeletons in the Mozart family grave, where his niece and his grandmother are believed to be buried.

But that raised more questions than it answered. Neither of the two female skeletons tested proved to be related, either to one another or to the skull at the Mozarteum.

"The identity of the individuals concerned in the Mozart family grave has proven to be a mystery," researcher Dr. Walther Parson conceded in Mozart: The Search for Evidence, which aired on Austrian state broadcaster ORF Sunday in the run-up to the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth on Jan. 27.

The great composer died in 1791 at age 35 and was buried in St. Mark's Cemetery in Vienna. As was the practice at the time, he was laid in a common grave with many other bodies.

Joseph Rothmayer, a gravedigger who buried Mozart, claimed to have unearthed the skull 10 years later. It ended up in Salzburg, the city where Mozart was born, a century later, missing a lower jawbone.

The skull was displayed at the International Mozarteum Foundation in Salzburg until 1940, when its exhibition was deemed indecent. It then went into a safe and was only made available to scientists.

In 1991, a French anthropologist who examined it theorized that Mozart may have died of complications of a head injury rather than rheumatic fever as most historians believe.

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