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Scientists Find Bloodstains of French King Louis XVI on Gourd

Jan 02, 2013 04:57 AM EST

Scientists have found an old gourd which they believe holds bloodstains of French king Louis XVI who was killed in 1793, reports BBC.

King Louis XVI was beheaded using a guillotine by French revolutionaries. After his death, spectators are believed to have gathered around his body and dipped their handkerchiefs in his blood.

Two centuries after the incident happened, scientists have found one such cloth having bloodstains maintained as a revolutionary souvenir even now.

On the day of the king's death, Parisian Maximilien Bourdaloue was said to have dipped his handkerchief in the blood and preserved the cloth in a gourd (squash) decorated with pictures of French revolutionary heroes and embellished it.

The squash, maintained by an Italian family for a century, has a text inscribed in it saying: "On January 21, Maximilien Bourdaloue dipped his handkerchief in the blood of Louis XVI after his decapitation." 

A team of experts from Spain and France analyzed the DNA samples taken from the bloodstains in the gourd and found that it matched with someone of Louis' description. But they could not confirm it as they did not have the genetic material of any of his relatives to compare with the DNA samples obtained from the bloodstains, the BBC report said.

But when scientists analyzed DNA samples from the mummified head of King Henri IV (an ancestor of King Louis XVI) and compared it with the DNA from the cloth, they were surprised to find that both shared a genetic signature.

King Henri IV ruled France from 1589 until 1610. King Louis XVI was one of Henri IV's direct male-line descendants separated by seven generations. Despite the generation gap, both men shared a genetic heritage and were paternally related, reports The Telegraph.

The research team found that DNA samples of King Louis XVI contained a rare partial "Y" chromosome which was also found in the blood traces from the gourd.

The study found that it is 246 times more likely that the owner of the mummified head and the person to whom the bloodstains belong to were related than unrelated, according to The Telegraph.

The findings of the study appear in the journal Forensic Science International.

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