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Multidisciplinary Identification of the Controversial Freedom Fighter Jörg Jenatsch, Assassinated 1639 in Chur, Switzerland


Haeusler, Martin; Haas, Cordula; Lösch, Sandra; Moghaddam, Negahnaz; Villa, Igor M; Walsh, Susan; Kayser, Manfred; Seiler, Roger; Ruehli, Frank; Janosa, Manuel; Papageorgopoulou, Christina (2016). Multidisciplinary Identification of the Controversial Freedom Fighter Jörg Jenatsch, Assassinated 1639 in Chur, Switzerland. PLoS ONE, 11(12):e0168014.

Abstract

Jörg Jenatsch, a leading freedom fighter during the Thirty Year's War in Graubünden, Switzerland, was assassinated on carnival 1639. Jenatsch's controversial biography and the unclear circumstances of his death inspired the formation of various legends, novels and films. In 1959, a skeleton discovered in the cathedral of Chur with remains of wealthy baroque clothing was tentatively attributed to Jenatsch. Here, we reassess the skeleton based on a new exhumation. Our multidisciplinary analysis and the head injuries are consistent with reports of the eyewitnesses of the crime, demonstrating that Jenatsch was killed from behind with a semi-sharp implement, supposedly an axe, as well as by a blow with a broad-surfaced object. Moreover, our facial reconstruction closely matches an oil portrait of Jenatsch, and the HIrisPlex system applied to DNA-extracts from the femoral bone reveals brown eye and dark brown hair colour, which coincides well with the portrait, too. Finally, isotope analysis of the femoral bone and a molar support Jenatsch's high social status, luxury diet and a high mobility in the last decade of his life. This multidisciplinary approach thus reinforces personal identification and provides additional insight into the life of this important historic person beyond written resources.

Abstract

Jörg Jenatsch, a leading freedom fighter during the Thirty Year's War in Graubünden, Switzerland, was assassinated on carnival 1639. Jenatsch's controversial biography and the unclear circumstances of his death inspired the formation of various legends, novels and films. In 1959, a skeleton discovered in the cathedral of Chur with remains of wealthy baroque clothing was tentatively attributed to Jenatsch. Here, we reassess the skeleton based on a new exhumation. Our multidisciplinary analysis and the head injuries are consistent with reports of the eyewitnesses of the crime, demonstrating that Jenatsch was killed from behind with a semi-sharp implement, supposedly an axe, as well as by a blow with a broad-surfaced object. Moreover, our facial reconstruction closely matches an oil portrait of Jenatsch, and the HIrisPlex system applied to DNA-extracts from the femoral bone reveals brown eye and dark brown hair colour, which coincides well with the portrait, too. Finally, isotope analysis of the femoral bone and a molar support Jenatsch's high social status, luxury diet and a high mobility in the last decade of his life. This multidisciplinary approach thus reinforces personal identification and provides additional insight into the life of this important historic person beyond written resources.

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Anatomy
04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Legal Medicine
04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Evolutionary Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:340 Law
610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:2016
Deposited On:29 Dec 2016 13:51
Last Modified:08 Dec 2017 21:42
Publisher:Public Library of Science (PLoS)
ISSN:1932-6203
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0168014
Official URL:http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0168014&type=printable
PubMed ID:28030571

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