Did Agrippina poison the Roman Emperor Claudius? Was General George Armstrong Custer mentally sound when he ordered the 7th Cavalry to attack at the Little Big Horn River? History is full of medical mysteries. After all, everyone has to die of something. But modern medical practitioners have actually found clues to the progress of diseases that still afflict mankind today by studying ancient sources who recorded the afflictions and demise of peoples of the past.
Friday, February 8, 2008
Two years ago I posted an abstract from an article about the controversy surrounding a death mask identified as William Shakespeare. I recently received an email from University of Mainz academic Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel, who is a champion of the mask, pointing out that she has written a book about the mask entitled "The True Face of William Shakespeare. The Poet's Death Mask and Likenesses from Three Periods of His Life". In it, she explains the scientific methods she used to analyze the mask and compare it to four Shakespearean portraits.
She also includes information about how the portraits and mask point to the cause of Shakespeare's early death at 52 years old.
"By combining exhaustive academic research with the latest technology and collaborating over
many years with specialists from the most varied disciplines - including forensic experts from the German Federal Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BKA=CID), Professors of Medicine, 3D imaging engineers, archivists and an expert on old masters - Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel has proved the authenticity of the Chandos portrait, the Darmstadt
death mask and the Flower portrait (recently incorrectly dismissed as a ‘fake’ by the National
Portrait Gallery, as shown by the author's latest evidence). Her revolutionary research has also
authenticated another true face of Shakespeare - the Davenant bust. This haunting sculpture has resided in the Garrick Club since 1855 and was thought to be the work of an eighteenth century sculptor. According to the author’s new documentary sources, it derives from the collection of Sir William Davenant (1606-1668), Shakespeare’s godson, who also owned the Chandos portrait.
By tracing the development of certain signs of illness in each of the images, first noticed by
Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel, the author’s medical experts have identified and verified the most probable cause of Shakespeare’s death. The conspicuous growth on the upper left eyelid, they interpreted as Mikulicz Syndrome (a probably cancerous abnormality of the tear glands), the swelling in the nasal corner of the left eye as a fine caruncular tumour, and the considerable swelling on the forehead (in conjunction with the other pathological symptoms) as systemic sarcoidosis, an inner disease that affects the organs and takes a very protracted course, but proves to be fatal."